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The Indian Railways (IR), in keeping with its Vision 2020, aspires to set the highest standards of hygiene, sanitation, safety, security and hospitality through newer cleaning methods. Processes are on for deployment of green toilets in all coaches, mechanised cleaning of trains, stations & platforms and for providing requisite training to railway employees in the recycling of water, sanitation and waste management at stations. It has already begun enhancing cleaning of trains by retrofitting all coaches with discharge-free green toilets and adopting mechanised cleaning in onboard housekeeping, at maintenance terminals and at Clean Train Stations. The Whitepaper on Vision 2020 also states that each station would be studied for its peculiarities and a well thought-out plan devised to achieve near-zero-waste.

In the process of implementation, performance criteria and standards evolved for each element of cleanliness and the achievement of these standards are being monitored at all levels. A unified system of responsibility for cleaning at stations with adequate financial and organisational resources is being put in place. Professional assistance is being utilised for pest and rodent control and quality cleaning of bed linen ensured through mechanised laundries. The 17 zones of Indian Railways have already begun the process of implementing mechanised cleaning.

A spokesperson of the Central Railway (CR) said, “Indian Railways has been facing criticism over poor standards of cleanliness in coaches, toilets, linen etc. Keeping in mind the growing demand for cleanliness and hygiene, we have started outsourcing activities like housekeeping, pest management and pantry services to specialised agencies. Wherever possible, department/in house initiatives have also been adopted.”

This is being done, as with any other Government departments, through tendering procedures. Bidders meeting the criteria specified in the tenders are short listed. The decision on chemicals and equipment to be used in the railway cleaning originates from the Research & Development Standard Organisation (RDSO) of the Indian Railways in Lucknow. The RDSO, in consultation with the experts in the cleaning industry, has stipulated parameters for equipment, chemicals and tools being used for cleaning coaches. In fact, these specifications were formulated way back in 2000 when the concept of Clean Train Stations got introduced to the IR by Eureka Forbes, said Sanjai Jalla, CMD, CTS Facility Management Company. Jalla had played a key role in formulating the tried-and-tested specifications laid down by the IR for coach cleaning service products.

According to IR sources, under the specifications provided by the RDSO, the Chief Mechanical Engineer of each division lists the brands falling in the specified categories and the same are released to the service providers. The IR has clearly laid down the criteria and properties of every equipment, chemical, tool, manpower and schedule for mechanised cleaning of coaches. Some of the recent initiatives taken by the CR are:

  • Progressive adoption of mechanised cleaning of coaches/trains and coach depot premises
  • Mechanised en route cleaning of nominated trains during the stoppage at Clean Train Stations
  • Cleaning and housekeeping in prestigious trains during the run
  • Mechanised cleaning of platforms, tracks, drains etc. in the station area
  • Educational publicity campaigns and announcements at stations and trains
  • Provision of dustbins/garbage bags for easy disposal
  • Provision of controlled discharge of toilet system in coaches

“Coach cleaning is labour intensive and includes sweeping, dusting, scrubbing interior/toilets, degreasing and floor cleaning. The trains get covered with layers of mud and grime during the journey. Window sills collect dirt, toilet pans get soiled and the interior of the train are strewn with garbage, left over food, tea cups, stained linen and muddy foot prints,” said the CR spokesperson.


BVG India, one of the leading facility management companies based in Pune, is doing mechanised cleaning of coaches at the Wadi Bunder depot of the CR. This yard has been designed similar to the fully automated depot at Puri. Rows of tracks interspaced with wide enough platforms are equipped with high pressure water line of 110 bar pressure, strategic electric power points and other amenities. In all, BVG is cleaning 11 trains – five primary, four secondary and two Round trip Brake Power Certificate (RBPC) – at this depot. Both the primary trains that originate from Mumbai and secondary trains that originate from another depot but halt at Mumbai for maintenance, require intensive cleaning on the external panels and internal area of the train. While primary trains stay back for a longer period of maintenance, secondary trains come for a few hours to the depot. RBPC trains run round the clock and come in for a short maintenance service of two hours. The IR has specified three types of machines for coach cleaning:

  • High pressure water jet cleaner for external panels and toilet cleaning
  • Single disc scrubber for floor cleaning
  • Wet & dry vacuum cleaner

BVG has deployed 36 sets of machines – 12 high pressure, 12 single disc and 12 wet & dry vacuum cleaners. More than 180 workers, 17 supervisors, two site-in charge and one manager of BVG are working in shifts at the Wadi Bunder depot. “We have around 26-28 janitors working at a time on a primary train depending on its length,” said

Rajesh Nair, Regional Head-Indian Railways, BVG. It takes around four to five hours to do intensive internal and external cleaning of coaches. “We only use Karcher machines – high pressure jet, scrubber and a wet & dry vacuum cleaner – besides the Delstar buffing machine.”

Sunil Kapoor, Deputy GM, Manmachine India Pvt Ltd, the distributors of Karcher machines in India, said that a coach scrubber was essential for floor cleaning. The dust accumulation is high due to heavy traffic / footfall inside the coach. More than 90% of the dirt is brought in by passengers entering the coach with dirty shoes and with constant movement of people, the dirt penetrates deeper and forms firm deposits on the floor surface. People walking out of the toilet with wet shoes leave behind imprints of dirt which get stuck to the floor on drying up.

While a single disc scrubber may not cover the entire area due to its circular motion, a normal scrubber would also not do the job, as it cannot reach below the berth or move easily around a congested aisle in the coach. Hence, a scrubber machine having twin movement, i.e. moving back and forth and also swinging side to side, will help clean areas not only under the berths from corner to corner but also move in the aisle conveniently.

Nevertheless, BVG, as per specifications of the IR, uses Karcher single disc machine to remove fixed dirt from the floors. The technical specifications for a compact single disc machine laid down by the IR are:

  • Pad speed – minimum of 180rpm
  • Working width – not more than 330mm, 13”
  • Weight – not more than 20-25kg
  • Motor – approximately 500watts

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