Indian Railways: Passengers Give Thumbs Down to Toilet Cleanliness on Major Trains

A audit-cum-survey conducted by IRCTC , which has strangely not been made public, shows that even premium-service trains are at the bottom of the cleanliness rankings.

New Delhi: Passengers across the country have given low marks to toilets found onboard many of India’s most important trains, according to a recent survey commissioned by the railways that is yet to be made public.

The third-party audit-cum-survey also collected passenger feedback on 209 trains – including the Rajdhani, Duronto, Shatabdi, Sampark Kranti, Intercity, Jan Shatabdi and Mail/Express – and was conducted by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) for the railways.

The survey notes that  passengers have found “cleanliness of the toilets” of all these trains as not being satisfactory when compared to other parameters.

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According to survey results accessed by The Wire, some of India’s ‘premium-service’ trains like the Rajdhani and Duronto, along with a few Mail/Express services, are at the bottom of cleanliness rankings.

While the Indian Railways has commissioned and carried out surveys for station cleanliness in the past, for the first time a survey was done on train cleanliness six months ago.

However, while results of past station surveys have generally been announced and made public at media events, this train survey has not yet been released  in the run-up to the 2019 general elections.

IRCTC spokesperson Siddharth Singh confirmed to The Wire that the train survey was carried out for Railways and it has been duly submitted to it.

What was surveyed?

Representative photo. Credit: Reuters

Condition of the toilets including bio-toilets, coaches, seats, and windows, doorways, dustbins, vestibules, hand wash areas, linens, bedrolls, curtains, pest management, waste management mechanism, water refilling and presence of onboard house-keeping staff (OHBS) were examined during in the last six months for the survey and reports were submitted thereafter in October 2018.

While both Rajdhani and Duronto trains originating from Mumbai have fared worse in comparison to other premium services, some trains from Guwahati, Puri and Secunderabad have also been found in wanting in the independent ‘Swachh Rail Swachh Bharat’ survey.

IRCTC, a railways PSU, was assigned to assess the cleanliness level in 209 important trains which included 77 premium trains such as the Rajdhani (23), Shatabdi (26), Duronto (26), Sampark Kranti (20), Intercity (20), Jan Shatabdi (19) and 73 other Mail-Express long distance service across the country last year.

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The survey covered a total of 485 rakes as many trains have more than one rake and a total of 15,360 passengers were interviewed during their train journeys.

The third-party audit recommends more focus on  cleaning toilets, enroute watering of the trains, improvement in cleaning and management of linen/curtains. It also notes that OBHS staff should be trained more on maintaining hygienic conditions and using the tools provided.

Each train is assessed through three survey components: ‘process audit’, ‘direct observation’ and ‘feedback’. Each component has a 33% weightage and therefore each train is scored out of 1,000 points.

With a score of 462 out of a 1,000 points, the Mumbai Duronto service starting from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal  for Nagpur is near the bottom of the rankings in the premium category. The Rajdhani service from New Delhi for Dibrugarh (469/1000) also gives it company.

Generally-speaking, according to railway sources, any score below 800 shows that further improvement is needed, while a ranking above 900 is considered above satisfactory.

Over 130 trains out of the 209 that were surveyed scored below 800 points. According to the survey’s results, the Somanth-Jabalpur Express, with a 402 score, is the lowest.

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The Allahabad-New Delhi Duronto and Delhi Sarai Rohilla-Jammu Tawi Duronto trains with 520 and 543 score respectively have also been found to be wanting.

Other low performers include Guwahati-Jorhat Jan Shatabdi (450), Ranchi-Patna Jan Shatabdi (474), New Delhi-Una Jan Shatabdi (490), Puri-Tirupati Express (462) Guwahati-Anand Vihar Express (546), Secunderabad-Patna Express (479) and Rajgir-New Delhi Express (488).

There are only three trains which scored more than 900. While the Pune-Secunderabad Shatabdi, with a 916, emerged as the topper in the cleanliness ranking, followed by Howrah-Ranchi at 914 and Chennai Central-Mysuru at 906, the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani at 861 is at the top among all the Rajdhanis.

Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist and can be contacted at [email protected]