Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Train Travel Leaves Me Disappointed

I love to travel by train. I have fond memories of train travel. Over time train travel has evolved for passengers. Many of us have moved from non-airconditioned coaches to airconditioned coaches. We have moved from slower trains to one that offer faster travel and better convenience. As a nation we are even thinking of bullet trains that may travel at a very high speed and compete with air travel. 

Yet, every time I travel by train, I feel sad and depressed. Sorry state of affairs cannot be shut out by sealed window of an air conditioned coach. 


  • As train approaches any major station, we do not see anything attractive and beautiful that can make us proud of the city. Instead, we only see both sides of the track full of slums and shanties. None have access to basic human necessities like a toilet. In the morning, people attend call of nature in the open. While adults use nearby bogs and fields, children ease themselves on tracks. Looking at these sights is not pretty. 
  • Both sides of tracks are littered with plastic and sundry waste. Smaller towns have pigs roaming around filth and muck. It is politically incorrect to talk about such human misery. Politicians will romanticise about how desperate people trying to eke out living under trying conditions. No one will answer why people are in such a state. Why no effort is being made to improve lot of people that have come to cities to improve their income. Why railway land is allowed to encroach upon? Is hoping to see something good, something pleasing to eye is too much to ask?
  • Train tracks are dirty because human waste from train toilets are deposited on the track. Why toilets are not locked before train arrives at a station? This could be a low tech solution. Alternatively, technology that is used in airplane or even luxury buses can be employed in trains. After nearly sixty years post independence, effort is being made to degrade human waste using microorganisms to water and gas. Such a container is being attached to trains. Still most of the trains are yet to to be fitted with a waste box. So human waste will fall on the tracks for quite some time to come. In stations if your window is facing a track, it will be advisable not to watch. 
  • Even after so many years we have not been able to provide clean washroom in trains that can be used without squirming. Many long distance trains are providing an attendant to clean washroom at regular interval as well as on demand. Still, I more often that not desist from using washroom in a train.
  • Many long distance trains, specially superfast ones, provide breakfast, lunch and dinner. These foods are loaded right next to a toilet. Given my antipathy to train toilet, I feel disillusioned to even look at train meal. I fail to understand, why food cannot be carried on a trolley like it is done on a plane. 
  • Food supply and food service has probably been outsourced. Many caterers are poorly trained or untrained. On a recent train travel, I requested for a coffee instead of tea. I was told bluntly it will take the person to fetch a coffee bag by travelling three coaches. So I have to make do with tea. In the same journey, I asked for a non-vegetarian meal. Even after my copassengers had finished their meal and were ready to retire, I did not get my meal. Strangely, the same person brought me a coffee bag in the morning and asked for a tip for his service. I think railway should discourage this practice of asking for tip by people who are getting paid for doing their job. On one side we do our job poorly, on the other we demand a tip for doing what we are expected to do in the first place.
  • Another point of disappointment is after a passenger comes out of station. There is in general chaos to get a transport. Local enterprising auto rickshaw and taxi drivers try to catch a passenger much before they come out of the platform. Such people fleece passengers. Pre-paid service usually does not work. Many auto drivers openly flout regulations set by pre-paid system. Why can auto and/or tax be regulated by lining up and picking up passengers by turn? Such a system operated in domestic airport of Delhi. Why can it not be enforced in railway staitions?
I think railway provides a cost effective mode of transportation in India. But to become a world class transporter, railway has a long way to go in terms of speed, efficiency and quality of service. If anyone has seen, even on TV, European and American trains, I think we should not have such discussion.
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