Logistics

Stories of some who steered the Train 18’s inaugural run

Mamuni Das New Delhi | Updated on February 19, 2019 Published on February 19, 2019

As trains in India try to turn into land cruises, the black-coat wearing Train Ticket Examiners or TTEs are turning into captains of the land-ship. Once responsible primarily for checking tickets, they are now the ‘go-to person’ for all kinds of customer services in these “experience trains”.

Taking care of customers on the Train 18’s inaugural run last week were such captains. With years of experience as ticket checkers and inspectors, they are now part of the “frontline staff” serving those travelling on Train 18, said Captain Anil Mohla, who has put in decades checking tickets in mail, express and premium trains. Known for his patience, Mohla is also a Chief Ticket Inspector of New Delhi Railway Station and a “motivational speaker”.

To ingrain the “safety first” message in the minds of the colleagues he trains, Mohla is known to start with such lines: “When you cross the road, how many of you instinctively hold your wife’s hand to ensure that you are on the side from which the vehicles are approaching. We have to treat the safety of our passengers just like that.”

Upgrade in facilities

Then, there are the guards, who are “responsible for the entire train”, says Sumesh Sehgal, sporting a uniform with “The Guard” embossed. The Guard’s cabin in Train 18 is swanky, but Sehgal, who started out as a guard of goods train in his late teens before moving on to passenger trains, is used to humbler lodgings. “Balcony on both sides, a room with toilet attached, electricity and water detached,” is how he described his previous work space. .

As goods-train guards, they have to deal with thieves stealing some cargo — say a bag or two of rice — in a way that minimised the damage and saved their lives. “At times, when you have put a torch and there is eye contact with a bunch of thieves, you simply tell them to close the wagon door and leave.”

In case of accidents or suicide attempts, they have had to deal with various challenges, including dismembered bodies. Usually people from nearby villages, who gather after a train accident, are helpful. “We have to ensure that the train moves ahead. Till the guards sign a document, the train does not start no matter what caused the stoppage,” he added.

The pilots, as train drivers are called, at least have the rare luxuries of toilets and AC in their driving cabins in the Train 18. But still, their job is not easy. “Haath sunn pad jaate hain (hands become numb) while driving the high speed engines, parts of which become extremely hot or cold,” shared Manoj Tiwari, one of the several loco pilots responsible for steering the semi-high speed train.

Tiwari added that the loco pilots were trained in the “new operating system” for Train 18. Tiwari has earlier driven WAP 7, the most powerful electric locomotive used to drive lighter load passenger trains at higher speeds.

Taking care of the food on-board are the IRCTC employees who serve with a smile.

Customer service

And, then, there are the on-board house-keeping staff (outsourced to external agencies) who have to keep the moving train spick and span, wiping off the spilled drinks or food on floors, cleaning soiled toilets or fixing the broken soap dispensers as hundreds of passengers use the train during its eight-hour journey through Delhi, Kanpur, Allahabad and Varanasi.

Then, there are the technical staff – the silent workers – who work with a single motto: to ensure that each passenger is satisfied. Train 18’s inaugural run didn’t come without a glitch, as it broke down while returning to Delhi, but the train is in heavy demand. In fact, it is booked till the first week of March.

Published on February 19, 2019
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