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Clean Rail Conference Zonal III Meet – A Report

by Clean India Journal Editor
1 comment

The third edition Clean Rail Conference zonal meet held in Hyderabad had the senior managers from the railways and industry experts come together to deliberate on improving rail passenger experience on Indian Railways. Distinguished speakers included Shri. Arun Kumar Jain, General Manager, South Central Railway; Shri. K.S. Jain, Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer, South Central Railway; Shri. Hemsingh Banoth, Chief Rolling Stock Engineer (Coaching), South Central Railway; Shri. N.S.R. Prasad, CWE, South Central Railway; Shri. P. Madhusudan Rao, Deputy Chief Environment and Housekeeping Manager, South Central Railway; Shri. Lokesh Vishnoi, DRM, Hyderabad; Shri. K. Srinivas, Sr.DME/CO/SC,South Central Railway; Christopher Blessing, Managing Director, Corporate Aesthetic Refurbishing Enterprises Pvt. Ltd; Arun Thapar, Managing Director, Inventa Cleantech Private Ltd; Yashodhar Vallala, President, Railway Boot Laundry Operators Association and CEO, Supreme Laundry Services; S Vanchinathan, Head Sales – SAARC, Buzil Rossari Pvt. Ltd; Bhawna Khanna, Head-Strategic Engagement & Key Accounts, MicroGO; Maheshwaram M, Lead-Technology Development, MicroGO and Prabhu Byakod, Managing Director, Nature Care Solutions. Here is a report

Keynote speaker A.K. Jain said the India Railways has been providing humane service connecting people, cultures and cities across the length and breadth of the country. With rapid growth in recent years however, the IR needed to keep up with aspirations of new-age rail travellers with increased efficiency and higher standards of cleanliness. While the IR was committed to the nation-wide call for ‘Swachh Bharat’ and had introduced initiatives like mechanised cleaning at stations, automatic coach-washing plants and on-board housekeeping, these steps had fallen short of customer expectations.

Other initiatives included converting stations into sustainable hubs, energy efficient lighting, green landscaping and effective waste management. However, with millions of passengers using rail services daily, greater efforts were required to ensure their experience was not only efficient but also hygienic and comfortable. He called upon all stakeholders to come up with bold and innovative solutions using cutting-edge technology, advanced materials and digitisation to ensure enhanced passenger experience.

IR’s clean and green initiatives

Lokesh Vishnoi emphasised that the Indian railways, with the fourth largest rail network in the world, has incorporated environment management in its vision and mission statements in its efforts to be a global leader in sustainable mass transportation solution. The IR is setting up an exclusive directorate for environmental management in the Ministry of Railways and a Special Officer has been nominated for Environmental and Housekeeping Management Department (ENHM)

Adopting modern technologies in infrastructure construction, operations and maintenance are some of the strategies to mitigate negative impact on the environment. Green-sensitive initiatives like solar energy at Kathgodam station, wind energy, CNG and biofuels are other initiatives, he said. One percent of all project budgets were earmarked for environment-related work. Waste management plants at New Delhi and Jaipur have been successfully tested on a pilot basis, crucial to the railways where a typical major station generates five to 15 tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) every day.

All trains have been fitted with bio toilets and the IR is committed to reducing its carbon emission intensity 32% of by 2030, Vishnoi added. The creation of the DFCCIL and IR’s increasing growth share in inter-modal spheres of freight traffic promises the reduction of carbon footprints and increased energy conservation. Repletion of ground water by rainwater harvesting system (RWH) has provided another initiative towards water retention management.

Various energy efficiency methods have been adopted resulting in sustained reduction of electric energy consumption. Case in point is the mandatory use of LEDs in passenger coaches and railway stations and free-of-cost LED lights issued to railway staff for their homes. Energy efficient, state-of-the-art electric and diesel locomotives are being produced with the intention to reducing pollution. The IR is pushing for green certifications in all its divisions, he informed.

Elevating user experience

Christopher Blessing from Caere spoke of his company’s journey from a single petrol pump to its presence in over 200 cities, in 25 years of providing cleaning solutions. He described the model for delivering world-class cleaning services which had a number of components at play. While there were multiple options available for use in equipment, chemicals, hardware and software, the critical aspect was marrying them together with people, practices and processes to create an environment that gave the best experience to the user. (Read more in the following pages)

Cleaning challenges

K Srinivas of South Central Railway listed the challenges faced in maintaining a clean train, coach and station. After converting to bio toilets, passengers were experiencing foul smell emanating from them which has not reduced even with repeated cleaning and spraying of disinfectants and perfumes, he said. Exterior coach cleaning was normally done in coaching depots, whereas the interior was cleaned enroute as well as in primary depots. The automatic coach-washing plants were unable to remove hard stains from the coach exterior and over time, the condition of the coaches has deteriorated. Intricate spaces in the coaches were not reachable for cleaning.

Proper chemicals were not used, strong enough to remove stains but light enough to not remove the paint. The coach interior had a lot of different areas like the floor, aisles and gangways and different materials like LP sheets, PVC floor, berth rexines that needed to be cleaned thoroughly. Pit lines cleaning was another issue, he said. Collection, segregation and disposal of waste was a major challenge and so was pest and rodent control. Garbage disposal and garbage collection and water shortage in coaches were other problematic areas, he added. Linen management and loss or misuse of linen was an issue too, he said. Adequate storage space for chemicals and tools in coaches was needed, he pointed out. Though the railways have outsourced on-board housekeeping staff to contractors and penalty clauses were in place, there was still high absenteeism of nearly 20 percent of the staff, leading to unclean trains and delayed services to passengers. Inadequate manpower was a reason for poor coach maintenance. While suggestions were made to address the issues, they needed to be implemented in order to reduce passenger complaints and improve travel experience.

Justifying automatic cleaning

Arun Thapar, a long-term cleaning vendor for the Indian Railways, justified the performance of the automatic coach-washing plant by saying that 50 of them have been satisfactorily operating for the railways and metros. The automation had made it possible to wash hundreds of coaches every day with the system consuming barely 60 litres of water per coach. He cited other advantages including consistent quality and labour saving. He however said that passengers, being major stakeholders, had to be educated on maintaining cleanliness in the train. While he could not give an effective response to how the performance of the existing plants could be improved, he suggested additional measures like coating of surfaces with a protective layer to reduce deterioration.

Laundry as a profit centre

Yashodhar Vallala suggested that the Indian railways contract laundry management to third-party vendors who would be responsible to buy the linen, wash, transport and distribute it to passengers. Laundry could also be made a profit centre by charging passengers a nominal amount for use per kg of linen. This would serve railway officials to focus on more pressing matters, he said.

One-stop shop

Vanchinathan from Buzil Rossari, the hygiene solution company that acted as go-between the railways and laundry operators, gave a brief explanation of the process of laundry cleaning and drying, which varied depending on the purpose of linen like blankets, bedsheets and hand towels. He also stated that his company had introduced a new vertical that provided training and certification on operating a laundry.

There are solutions for odourless toilets too, he said. Training personnel, gap analysis and audit, waste management, energy conservation solutions are various other offerings by the company.

Real-time response

Bhawna Khanna and M Maheshwaram spoke of the innovations using IoT technology for a few work-in-progress projects being done for the railways including nullification of odour in toilets, air compressor flow monitoring where they needed to fill the engine with compressed gas at a certain humidity and temperature, checking water-levels in toilets and axle temperatures as well as over-seeing the performance of the on-board cleaning staff. Timely and actionable alerts were generated for real-time response from stakeholders.

Boon for women passengers

A vending machine that could store 30 to 40 sanitary napkins up to 100 and conveniently fit in the toilet of a railway coach was introduced by Prabhu Byakod. The napkin could be accessed by inserting a five-rupee coin. An incinerator is also provided alongside to burn used napkins ensuring clean disposal of the same. The product has been installed in schools, colleges and a few railway stations, among others, he said.

P Madhusudan Rao offered the vote of thanks at the conclusion of the session.  

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1 comment

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