While the fare hike will dominate headlines, Railways Minister Dinesh Trivdei announced a host of new initiatives for the Indian Railways, a service he said is as important as any other to ensure the growth of the nation. Initiatives that caught our eye included proposals like green toilets to greatly improved passenger services. Here is a list of what we like best:
1. Green toilets: In his speech, Trivedi said green toilets would be introduced to stop corrosion and degradation of tracks due to what he politely referred to as ‘night-soil’. Vacuum toilets, currently found on airplanes are to be fitted on a few premium train services as a pilot project and will be introduced on other trains soon. Additionally, 2,500 coaches will be equipped with bio-toilets developed by the DRDO. If it means our train coaches and tracks stink less we say : Yes please!
2. Cleaner toilet and hygiene services in six months : “I am not prepared to accept the hygiene standards of trains”, said Trivedi. None of us ever did but then we really couldn’t do too much about it. Trivedi announced the setting up of a special house keeping unit to ensure that cleanliness and hygiene are improved, in keeping with international standards. This will extend to toilet facilities at stations. Hallelujiah!
3. Better food: The minister got it right when he said that people expected better food while travelling on Indian Railways. Reputed catering agencies will be recruited through a global tender to run the kitchens in pantry cars of trains and kitchens at major stations that cater to the trains. The pilot project is to be launched on 26 premium trains, the minister said. The Railways will also have a book-a-meal scheme to allow commuters to book their choice of meals before they board they train.
4. Passenger amenities: For a change the railways seem to want to pamper its customers. Escalators at major stations, upgraded facilities at multiple stations, air conditioned executive lounges with wi-fi, SMS to be used as proof of identity while booking e-tickets and booking your meals through email or SMS. Now to hopefully have them implemented soon.
5. Train coaches and stations that are differently abled friendly: The minister has proposed special coaches for the differently abled that will specially cater to passengers bound to wheelchairs. Every train will have one such coach which will have specially constructed toilets and two attendants. Similarly toilets on train stations will also be more usable for the differently abled. About time we say.
6. Waitlisted? Get booked on an alternate train: The Railway Minister announced the introduction of an Alternate Train Accommodation System (ATAS) as a pilot project in order to accommodate wait-listed passenger on alternate trains instead of leaving them stranded.
7. Greater security: The RPF helpline is to be integrated with the passenger helpline that the Railways operate to allow passengers to contact security personnel in the event on emergency. Security systems are to be upgraded at 202 stations and police personnel escorting trains is also to be increased.
What did you like about the Railway Minister’s budget?