At last, toilets in train engines

That its train engine drivers, or loco-pilots as it calls them now, work under extremely stressful conditions has been Indian Railways’ worst kept secret.

Relief junction: Train engines now to have toilet facility for first time

In fact, the stress levels of loco-pilots have often been blamed for many rail accidents in recent years. And now, a panel looking into the matter has zeroed in on a very basic facility, the lack of which has added substantially to stress levels of these men: toilets inside locomotives.

The committee “to review the duty hours of running and other safety related categories of staff” has recommended “a suitable waterless type urinal” on “every locomotive as an immediate measure” to take care of the problem.

“Difficulties are being experienced by the loco running staff at present due to non-availability of toilets in the locomotives. The problem is much more on super fast trains which run for 4 to 5 hours continuously at a stretch without any stoppage,” the committee, headed by former food processing secretary D P Tripathi, has said.

The report, which was submitted to the railways ministry, has stressed the need for toilets in locos saying this “problem is likely to get further aggravated in future with more and more induction of ladies in loco running cadre”.

Even on faster long-distance trains such as the Rajdhanis and Shatabdis, loco-pilots have had to contend with travelling long distances without a toilet break until now. The only time they could use a toilet has been during halts at intermediary stations, having had little option but to “hold on”.

In point-to-point non-stop Duronto trains, the only “window” the loco-pilots have for a toilet break is during the train’s technical halts.

Privately, officials admit that there have been instances when

a loco-pilot had to stop the train in the middle of a section to relieve himself.

“A few months back, we came up with a prototype of a retro-fitted toilet in a diesel locomotives. All we are now awaiting is a policy decision from the Railway Board on the matter. The recommendations of this committee will only help us get a stronger mandate to do the same,” a senior railway official said.

In 2010, a team of railway doctors had carried out a detailed study on the working of loco-pilots to identify their stress levels and the factors responsible for stress build-up. As many as 100 loco-pilots were part of this study and while most of the findings-from postural discomfort and non-spacious and noisy workplace to long duty hours with improper rest-were on expected lines, “the absence of toilets” in locomotives came as a revelation.

In addition to toilets, the report has recommended an overall makeover of the locomotives-ranging from air-conditioning the cabin to providing cameras along with a display unit that can ensure that loco-pilots don’t have to peep out of the window and look back frequently for viewing the train formation and the guard’s signal.

Air-conditioning has been proposed as the committee found temperatures inside loco cabins during summers were “quite unbearable”— as high as 61 degrees celsius in diesel locos and 51.8 degrees celsius in electric locos.

Maintenance woes may force Rlys to change Duronto colour scheme

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress may be intent on changing most of the state’s red into green but one of Mamata’s own “green contribution” to the Indian Railways, rolled out during her stint as the Union Railway Minister, is all set to be junked.
Faced with a deluge of maintenance-related complaints, the Ministry of Railways is “actively considering” a change in the colour scheme of its point-to-point, non-stop Duronto trains, launched by Mamata in September 2009. In fact, at the time of the first Duronto’s launch, it was adequately hinted (though never officially admitted) that the primarily green-coloured look of the train, interspersed with a dash of red, blue and yellow, was a design borrowed from one of Mamata’s own paintings.

However, with so many colours in the design, Railways realised quite early that it would have been impossible to bring out the desired colour-scheme on these coaches via the painting method. They were left with no option but to go in for the self-adhesive vinyl-wrapping of the Duronto coaches. At first, the vinyl-wraps appeared to be less cumbersome to handle but three-and-a-half years down the line, most of the zonal railways that own and maintain Duronto coaches are a harried lot.

At a recent conference of the Chief Mechanical Engineers (CME) of all the zonal railways held at Rail Bhavan, the matter was raised with a demand to review the colour scheme.

“Railways complained that in Duronto trains vinyl wraps are very difficult to maintain. Railways may approach Railway Board in consultation with the General Managers for review of colour scheme and painting procedure,” reads the minutes of the CME conference (copy with The Indian Express) where the matter was flagged.

“Many zonal railways have complained that the vinyl-wrapping comes off during the washing or maintenance work of the coaches. Once a portion of the vinyl-wrap peels off, it leaves ugly looking patches on coaches. On coaches that have a conventional colour scheme, it is possible to touch-up an area from where the paint comes off. But in case of Durontos, touching up is not just possible owing to their multi-colour design,” a senior ministry official from the Mechanical Engineering Directorate said.

“Several zonal railways have tried to rope in expert hands to do patchwork on Duronto coaches from which the vinyl-wraps had come off. However, not many people are available for this kind of a job and even if they manage to do some patchwork, the end-result has often turned out to be an eyesore,” the official added.

Senior Rail Bhavan officials said that changing the colour scheme seems to be the only possible remedy and was being deliberated at the top level. Many zonal railways, it is learnt, have communicated to the Railway Ministry that the vinyl-wrapping was not just costing them 10-20 per cent more than painting them but was also not proving to be long-lasting.

Presently, Durontos run on 62 routes across the country at frequencies ranging from once a week to five times a week.