No frills please, focus on the core

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Train safety and hygiene more important than jazzing up stations

One of the golden rules in advertising is that your advertising is only as good as your product. A rather crude analogy, but that thought crossed one’s mind reading the news about the Railways going to jazz up stations and offer music and movies on trains and also ‘brand’ trains.

One hopes that all those revenues the Railways hopes to mop up will help improve the core: safe, comfortable trains, functional and clean, never mind the frills. As a frequent traveller on trains, one is seeing them up, close…and shaken.

On one overnight train to Bengaluru, the SSPN Express, the coach jerked so violently, I was scared it would jump off the rails. Recent trips on the popular Bangalore-Chennai Mail train had their own coach full of woes.

On one journey, the door of the three-tier air-con coach had come off its hinges and couldn’t be shut properly. This got fixed, surprisingly, on the way, but not before the passengers imbibed the stench from the toilets. In the sleeper class, passengers in the first bay invariably travel with the stink of the toilets wafting down the aisles. A ticket examiner explained that the bio-toilets that have been installed in many trains have come to nought with passengers throwing in cigarette butts and other stuff down the chute, destroying the anaerobic bacteria meant to work on the waste. Acts of a senseless travelling public also makes whatever good work the Railways attempt come a cropper.

The Railways says it recovers only 57 per cent of the cost of travel of a passenger ticket. So, moves to raise revenues from non-traditional sources to continue this rail subsidy is welcome. But, in this exercise to offer the frills the Railways should not lose sight of the functional: safe, comfortable and clean trains. The Great Indian Traveller will appreciate this more than movies and music on his travels.

Associate Editor

Published on January 12, 2017

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