Indian Railways might be hit by a series of problems including safety issues, but it is basic hygiene, particularly unclean toilets, that appear to be the biggest concern in the minds of frequent travellers.
A survey of over 12,000 respondents found that ‘unclean toilets’ followed by ‘unclean coaches’, were the main issue that travellers had with the Railways.
Most respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the state of cleanliness and hygiene on trains in general and toilets in particular, while bad food quality emerged as another blot on the reputation of services offered by Indian Railways.
The survey conducted by research firm Market Xcel divided the respondents in four zones — North, East, West and South — and covered 12 cities to find out how much the customers were satisfied with the Railway services.
The study focused specially on railway services covering cleanliness of platforms, coaches, beddings, toilets, availability of soaps, functioning of toilet flush, besides quality of food, availability of water ad refreshments and behaviour of the staff including the ticket checkers.
As many as 30 per cent of those surveyed overall said cleanliness of toilets or the lack of it was their top issue, while 14 per cent rated unclean coaches as their biggest problem. Another 13 per cent cited bad quality of food as the biggest worry.
In all the four zones barring the East, unclean toilets was the top most concern among travellers. The travellers of the East zone cited bad food quality as their top worry.
According to the research firm, the study clearly indicates that the Railways are still struggling to satisfy its customers on basic hygiene factors.
The research was targeted at men and women between the age group of 18-45 years, who do overnight journeys in trains at least 2-3 times a year, and who travelled on long distance journeys — 600 to 700 km — in train at least once in last three months.
While these three issues were the top most concerns among travellers, other areas that customers said need to be addressed include platform services.
Comfort and spaciousness on platforms and sitting areas, and maintenance of General and AC coaches was another grey area that elicited concerns among some travellers.
The Indian Railways transport millions of passengers across the length and breadth of the country, and is the most widely used mode of transport — both for persons and freight.
The country’s largest public transporter has been reeling under a series of issues, including safety concerns in recent times.
The survey also found that travellers experienced problems with entry of general passengers in the sleeper coaches, neglect of passenger security, trains not arriving on time and overcrowded coaches.
However, some functional areas also came in for appreciation from users.
Among platform services, sufficiency of sitting area scored the highest among all factors, followed by frequency, accuracy and clarity of announcements, and lighting and fans.
AC coaches were appreciated for the cleanliness of floor, cleanliness and dryness of bedding, berth space, while travellers in sleeper and general coaches appreciated the functioning of lights and fans, and availability of berth space.