Readers from the industry of the last issue of this magazine would have appreciated a special report on ‘What the Indian Railways Wants’ from the cleaning, hygiene and facility management sector. The industry has eagerly responded to this call.
In collaboration with the Indian Railways, Clean India Journal is organising a one-day Conference on Clean Rail Solutions addressing the latest technologies, processes and solutions that can be adopted for a hygienic passenger experience. The conference is scheduled for October 18, 2022 at The Park Hotel, New Delhi.
In the runup to the conference, here is another special report, about the countless ways and means that have already been adopted by the Railways, and are in practice at this moment, to clean and sanitise all railway facilities: trains, stations, yards, even railway colonies.
Shailendra Singh, Executive Director, Mechanical Engineering (EnHM & Projects), Railway Board reveals the vast canvas of facility management in railway facilities, expounds on the sustainable themes that underlie all SoPs, and gets into the nitty-gritty of what vendors must do to protect passenger health.
Mechanised coach cleaning
This is done at originating stations before the train departs. The train is passed through our washing lines and pit lines, where it is thoroughly cleaned, both outside and inside. This includes complete internal cleaning of all coaches; cleaning of toilets, wash basins and dustbins; cleaning of coach floors; cleaning of berths and seats; and external washing. Filling the water tank of each coach is also an essential step at this stage, to ensure that water is available to passengers in toilets and wash basins, throughout the journey.
Mechanised cleaning, which is done at primary maintenance depots, is a time dependent activity because trains remain in the yard for just six hours. All the cleaning work has to be done within that time frame, which is why we have gone in for intensive mechanisation, using various kinds of machines like floor scrubbers, vacuum machines, jet cleaning machines etc. There is no element of manual cleaning.
Only environment-friendly cleaning agents can be used; the chemicals to be used are specified in our contracts with vendors.
Cleaning of coaches is thoroughly evaluated by our supervisors; payment is done based on their ratings. We have 154 such contracts, the value of which is around ₹1,400 crores.
Automatic coach washing
If a coach is cleaned manually, around 16,000 litres of water are needed per coach. With an automatic cleaning system, only 300 litres of water are needed to wash a coach, 80% of which can be recollected, recycled and reused. So practically, only 60 litres of water are needed. From 16,000 litres down to 60 litres is a huge amount of water saved.
We have already installed 40 such plants. In a couple of years, our target is to have an automatic coach washing plant in all our major depots.
Cleaning during journey
Cleaning is not permanent. After the train starts, the coaches are bound to get dirty during the course of the journey, and there is a need to periodically clean the train.
Apart from onboard housekeeping, we also have a scheme in which the entire train is thoroughly cleaned at stations where it has a halt for more than 15 minutes, every 6-10 hours. This can be done only between 6 am and 10 pm, as we do not want to disturb passengers when they are asleep. Though this cleaning is not as extensive or intensive as mechanised coach cleaning, we try to restore cleanliness to an acceptable level after every such halt.
Special focus areas include cleaning of dustbins, vestibules and door areas, high pressure jet cleaning of toilets and wash basins. We also clean window panes on the platform side of the train. Spraying of air freshener and mosquito repellent is done wherever required.
Such contracts are in operation at 27 stations. Covid, and the reduction in stoppage at some stations, had affected this scheme, the contracts for which are worth around ₹200 crore.
These contracts are awarded to ensure cleaning of running trains. Under this, the housekeeping staff travels on the train and from 6 am to 10 pm, cleans the entire train twice. Over and above this, they also attend to any complaint or request coming in from passengers, other than the other scheduled cleaning. Passengers can request for cleaning to be done by using the RailMadad app. This cleaning is done only for reserved coaches, in trains which have more than 16 hour journeys, with at least 5-9 hours of daytime journey.
Three to four coaches constitute one workstation, for which one housekeeping person is provided. His activities include collection of garbage from the passenger area, mopping of coach floors with disinfectant, spraying air freshener, cleaning of the gangway area.
Although these may seem like routine activities, their timeline, level of intensity and the way of doing them is different. Another aspect of this is the provision of consumables like liquid soap and toilet rolls.
Payment is done based on feedback given by passengers. This service is currently active in around 949 trains; there are about 92 contracts worth ₹800 crore right now.
Station cleaning contributes directly to passenger experience and satisfaction. Here, we are trying to go for large-scale mechanisation so that the use of manpower is minimum and stations are always kept clean and hygienic. We are providing concrete setups along platform tracks to facilitate washing with water jets (although with the adoption of bio toilets in coaches, this requirement has really gone down).
We are also in favour of mechanised cleaning for pay-and-use toilets. Around 500 bottle crushing machines have already been installed.
For waste segregation, we have installed separate, clearly labelled dustbins for wet and dry waste at various locations on platforms.
We have engaged CII to do an audit of our cleaning activities and the practices being adopted at various stations. We are going in for green certification.
We are harnessing Effluent Treatment Plants of railway laundries to process the water discharged from tunnel washers or washer extractors; this water is used for gardening and to clean platforms. Since our laundries are generally located close to railway stations, we are also planning to direct this recycled water to coach areas for coach washing.
Apart from reviving water bodies in the railway network, we are also investing in rainwater harvesting. We are coming up with a policy which will ensure that from now on, any new station coming up will need to have a rainwater harvesting system to ensure the water table is recharged.
We are also going in for water audits. We are in the process of signing an MoU to get water audits for all our facilities, including residential railway colonies. Wherever there is a massive amount of water consumption, we will get the facility audited and then implement the solutions suggested by the auditing agency, to minimise water consumption as much as possible.
All our stations, trains and yards are covered under pest control contracts. We have defined frequencies of cleaning for all of them, to ensure a completely pest-free environment.
We rely on specialised agencies affiliated to the Indian Pest Control Association. Only certified agencies are permitted to carry out pest control.
The amount of food waste generated is definitely a concern. To tackle this, we have launched a pilot project at Howrah railway station.
Food waste from kitchens and stalls of the station is collected and taken to a composting plant adjacent to the station building, where it is processed into compost. This model has been successful and we are trying to scale up and replicate it at other stations as well.
In Jaipur, we have tried generating biogas from waste. We realised that the bio waste being generated was not sufficient to run the biogas plant around the clock; running the plant intermittently is a problem. Instead, the entire energy demands of the kitchen for drivers and guards are met by the biogas generated from bio waste.
These are the two models we are experimenting with to tackle food waste in an environment-friendly manner.