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Is 100% Mechanisation of Railway Cleaning Practical?

Vedant Matta, Director-Sales, Charnock Equipments Pvt. Ltd

Yes, says Vedant Matta, Director-Sales, Charnock Equipments Pvt. Ltd, who also believes that an odour-free station washroom, no-touch cleaning, litter picking without manual cleaning and extended use of cleaning machines at railway facilities are all possible.

Specialised Floor Cleaning

Many upcoming railway stations, as well as existing ones that are being upgraded, will have a modern design that will require the use of premium materials like granite and marble. Machines to polish these surfaces are readily available, and can also be adapted for carpet shampooing in passenger lounges, which have started to spring up at major stations across the country.

Platform Mopping

The days of a janitor walking up and down an almost kilometre-long platform with a solitary dry mop should be obsolete. A mopping scooty is available, with one mop each attached at the front and the back. Fitted with gel-based batteries, these do not require any maintenance or topping up of distilled water, and are already in use at prominent railway stations like New Delhi and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), Mumbai.

No-touch Toilet Cleaning

Every veteran of train travel knows that the consistency of cleaning across railway toilets is questionable. While some facilities are immaculately maintained, a terrible odour indicates the presence of many station washrooms. With such high traffic, housekeeping with tools is naturally a challenge.

What if a no-touch washroom cleaning and sanitisation equipment was available? A dense foam coats the entire washroom, including urinals, faucets and cubicles, after it is sprayed; after a reaction time of a few minutes, it drips to the floor. That is the indication to the operator that he can turn on the rinse mode and use the same gun to rinse off all the foam. An inbuilt vacuum allows the walls and floors to be dried, making it a one-man operation. Approved by the Airports Authority of India for cleaning of all washrooms managed by AAI, a couple of machines are also in use at CSMT Mumbai.

Uric acid crystals which form in drain pipes contribute to odour, and block pipes over time. Sometimes, entire pipes have to be removed and replaced. This machine prevents the build-up of such crystals in washrooms. Its roughly neutral pH makes it safe to use on all surfaces, including chrome fittings and faucets.

The single-person operation reduces manpower requirements. An inbuilt tank allows monitoring of chemical consumption, as well as that of water used. Cost of cleaning reduces across the board.

“We recently conducted a survey with two leading automobile manufacturers where these machines were deployed to clean worker washrooms on the shop floor. It was found that there was a direct correlation between cleaning with these machines and reduction in absenteeism; washrooms can be highly contaminated areas where employees can pick up a majority of workplace-related infections.”

Biological Urinal Toss Blocks

These are enzyme-based products that work on the concept of colonisation of bacteria. In layman’s terms, they are made up of ‘good’ bacteria which feed on the ‘bad’ bacteria and the uric acid in the pipelines. Whenever a urinal is used, a part of the block dissolves and enters the pipelines, reducing uric acid deposits. It can also help remove blockages, which also reduces odour.

Clearing Parking Areas

Major railway stations have vast parking areas for different kinds of vehicles like private and tourist cars, two-wheelers, public and private buses and so on. These are high-traffic areas, busy almost throughout the day, making them difficult to clean. Whether it’s an open car park or a multi-level car park, Charnock’s machines can be used to remove dust instead of manual broom. While the latter generates flying dust, the former captures all dust, which can then be taken away from the parking lot.

Battery-operated versions, which are both emission- and noise-free, are recommended. With this variant, the cost of consumables, recurring repairs and engine maintenance are completely wiped out.

Clearing Litter

Plastic waste is a major cause of concern at all stations, in the form of bottles, packets and more that are strewn across platforms, waiting areas, canteens and parking areas. Picking these up individually is a backbreaking task; using a litter picking machine with a massive waste bin attached at the back enables all kinds of bottles, bricks and other litter to be removed conclusively, rather than just swept to one side, from where they roll right back to their original position. Such a machine is already in use at a major locomotive manufacturing facility.

Coach Cleaning

Apart from under seats/berths, three areas are critical here: the space between doorways, the gangway between compartments and the coach toilets. Wet mopping the non-toilet floor consumes a lot of water. Cleaning Indian-style toilets and removing scales takes a certain amount of manoeuvring and hard scrubbing to completely finish the task. The steam cleaner, which has a metal brush among its accessories, can agitate surfaces by scrubbing the floor.

Extending Machine Life

One common complaint is that when a cleaning machine breaks down, the contracted service provider also throws his hands up, citing prohibitive replacement/maintenance costs. What they forget is that cleaning machines also need to be cleaned, and stored in a proper place after use.

“When the same machines can work for longer periods at airports and malls, why can’t they deliver a similar performance at railway facilities? Machines do not need to be customised; instead, service providers need to be educated about machine maintenance, third-party audits need to be conducted and shared with railway authorities rather than just with machine owners, i.e. the service provider. A three-pronged collaboration between the OEM, the railways and the service providers is needed to avoid such situations.”

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