Rail bosses have been urged to do more to crack down on graffiti on the UK network to encourage more people to return to using trains.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said keeping stations high has helped build passenger confidence and deter more serious crime.
According to him, Network Rail must respond more quickly to complaints and use “all the tools and innovations” available.
Network Rail said it was determined to tackle what was a “huge problem”.
The company, which maintains 20,000 miles of track as well as 20 of the UK’s largest stations, said it was spending £ 3.5million a year to rid the country’s rail infrastructure of unauthorized footage.
He said the pandemic had not caused an increase in graffiti, with cases declining by around 17% in the past five months.
Ministers are encouraging people to return to offices where it is safe to do so and the number of trains running in England, Wales and Scotland has returned to around 90% of pre-lockout levels.
However, passenger numbers are struggling to recover, after the lockdown caused the biggest drop in daily rail use in 25 years, with many prominent employers telling staff they can keep working home.
Mr Shapps said keeping the network clean was an important factor in encouraging passengers to return in greater numbers and that the prevalence of graffiti remained a concern.
‘Worthy of pride’
He wrote to Andrew Haines, the managing director of Network Rail, to urge the company to do more to remove markings from station buildings, bridges and other infrastructure.
“I want us, as a nation, especially as we continue to focus on improving and developing our national infrastructure as we recover from Covid-19, to feel proud of our rail infrastructure and our public spaces by ensuring that they are maintained to a high standard, ”he said.
“The scourge of graffiti, however, can impact passenger confidence as they return to using the railroad safely, and the broader public view of our national infrastructure and public transport. ”
He said it shouldn’t be the onus on passengers to report cases to ensure the graffiti is quickly removed.
In addition to its annual anti-graffiti budget of £ 3.5million, Network Rail spent £ 1million on specific projects in April and May.
Mr Shapps said it was a “step in the right direction” but that a long-term plan was needed to ensure that the railways remain “worthy of pride” and that operators use the latest technologies to fight against vandalism and anti-social acts.
Given the link between illegal trespassing and graffiti cases, he also urged Network Rail to work with rail companies and UK transport police to “toughen up the network against illegal incursions”.
Network Rail said it is committed to removing all offensive graffiti within 24 hours of posting, identifying violators and working with youth organizations to warn people of the dangers of trespassing.
Other measures used include anti-graffiti paints and allowing plants and trees to grow on continuously degraded surfaces.
He said there were 324 cases between early April and mid-September, covering the period of the UK-wide lockdown and its aftermath, up from 389 in the same period last year .
“Graffiti is a huge problem on our network but it’s not limited to the railroad,” said Mr. Haines.
“We are committed to tackling the problems created by graffiti by investing money in prevention programs and looking for ways to use technology to help us in the battle. ”
Passenger watchdog Transport Focus said graffiti “costs real money to clean up, so any move to ban it even more is to be welcome.”
“UK railways have become relatively graffiti-free in recent years, let’s keep it that way,” said managing director Anthony Smith.