A common feature of most outstation train journeys in India — apart from the large boisterous families and their large containers of home food — are the dirty passageways that lie under cockroaches, used food wrappers and spilt tea.
The Western Railway (WR) is working on plans to change that — it has appointed a private contractor, for a period of three years, for “onboard housekeeping services” for sleeper and air-conditioned coaches on outstation trains.
The contractor will be responsible for keeping the compartments and toilets clean. On each train, the contractor’s seven-strong crew will include a supervisor and six janitors, who will not only clean the train at regular intervals, but also attend to calls from passengers with complaints about cleanliness.
Each janitor will be in charge of three reserved coaches, and each coach is estimated to need at least 25 minutes to clean. “By the end of a typical train journey, passengers tend to leave 40 kg of rubbish and leftovers inside the train,” said a WR official on condition of anonymity.
The scope of the contractor’s work includes high-pressure jet cleaning of all coaches, spraying disinfectant and deodorants on floors and toilets, cleaning and mopping inside compartments, spraying mosquito repellant and cleaning window panes.
“We have pasted a dedicated cellphone number at the coach entrance. Passengers can call janitors on this number if they have complaints about cleanliness,” said WR chief PRO, S Gupta. To start with, WR has launched, from March end, the feature in 10 Mail Express and daily outstation trains, starting from Bandra Terminus and Mumbai Central Terminus.
These are trains with more than 16 hours of journey time — rail authorities found that trains running for more than 16 hours are usually the dirtiest, peaking in litter generation at 5-8 am and 5-8 pm.
To maintain the new service, WR will spend Rs 9,020 per trip. “The contractor will be paid Rs 4.07 crore only if approval ratings from passengers are 90 per cent and higher,” the WR official added. Passengers can send in these ratings through feedback forms kept inside the trains.