For Andreas Mehlqvist, broken glass is just part of the daily scene. He is Bus Stop Manager for SL bus operator Nobina in Stockholm, and is responsible for over 4000 individual bus stops. He has also been Project Manager for a pilot project involving a changeover to unbreakable Hammerglass in around 20 of the bus shelters within Nobina’s Södertörn area.
– We selected those shelters that were most vulnerable and where we found we were replacing glass on an almost weekly basis. Since installing Hammerglass in September, we haven’t needed to change a single panel! We reckon we have saved upward of 100.000 SEK a month (10.000 €) on these 20 shelters alone – a really incredible figure!
Hammerglass is a specially coated polycarbonate – 300 times stronger than glass. In spite of the fact that the company behind the product, Hammerglass AB, has produced special mountings for fitting the panels into bus shelters, there have been problems in getting the product out onto the market.
– When big companies buy in toughened glass panels for bus shelters, the price is exceptionally low. Their Purchasing Managers are governed by the Public Procurement Act and are obliged to buy in at the lowest possible price – so they can keep strictly to their budgets. Any breakage and replacement that occurs comes under the operating budget, and that’s a matter for a different department, of course, says Ulf Bergström, speaking on behalf of the Hammerglass Infrastructure business division.
– Our panels are almost twice as expensive as toughened glass, so we do not get very far when we try to discuss these things. Unfortunately, the fact that they pay for themselves after the initial breakage is neither here nor there. We have tried to persuade most of the large public transport authorities, but their answer is always the same – we are too expensive, he continues. As a taxpayer, you get a bit fed up, of course, when these people just can’t manage to think outside the box. There is simply no co-ordination between purchasing and operations, otherwise they’d have fitted unbreakable glass in all the at-risk shelters. After SL accepted us as an alternative supplier, we are now extremely pleased with the initiative that Nobina has taken, and we hope more operators will follow suit.
Andreas Mehlqvist of Nobina was himself sceptical to begin with.
– Initially, we were afraid the panels would get plastered with graffiti, or else kicked out, but the really strong mountings from Hammerglass have meant the panels have remained firmly in place, and even where graffiti has been daubed over them it’s been easy to remove from the glossy surface, he says. We also thought that Hammerglass might burn, but that is clearly not the case. It is acrylic plastic that burns – Hammerglass doesn’t.
Andreas Mehlqvist further states that Nobina will ensure that more bus shelters are fitted with Hammerglass.
– It’s a lot less unpleasant for staff to clean up graffiti than to tramp around in broken glass carrying heavy sheets of glass. And in addition to the working environment and the cost saving, there’s also a third important factor that is at least as important, namely the fact that our customers can now wait for their buses in clean, undamaged bus shelters, says Anders Mehlquist, who believes several operators will follow Nobina’s initiative in protecting their bus shelters.
– So we are very pleased, and we will be happy for other operators to come and visit us on a study trip, he comments in conclusion.