New Delhi: Swamped by thousands of complaints regarding the supply of dirty linen on board trains, Indian Railways is contemplating introduction of disposable towels, pillow covers and maybe even bed sheets for a price. The railways has started an online survey to find out what people desire and how much they are willing to pay for a peaceful night’s rest while travelling. There have been instances when passengers have pointed to stains on bed sheets and pillow covers and demanded that these be replaced. Bedroll porters are known to throw up their hands in despair and show how all linen stocked in coaches are similarly soiled and crushed.
Earlier, zonal railways used to hire launderers to wash used linen. This resulted in chaos with many launderers failing to supply fresh bed sheets, pillow covers and towels on time. Those in charge of issuing bedrolls to passengers were then forced to recycle used linen. Now, Eastern Railway has set up a mechanized laundry at Tikiapara that has capacity to wash 4,000 bedrolls (8,000 bed sheets, 4,000 pillow covers and 4,000 towels) everyday. South Eastern Railway has also commissioned a similar laundry at Santragachi of 2,000 bedrolls capacity. This will be augmented to 6,000 bedrolls in the future.
“Given the number of trains and the increase in upper-class passengers, this may not be sufficient. Apart from regular bedrolls, there are plans to introduce disposable ones for people who are ready to pay extra. Regular bedrolls are supplied without any additional cost to air-conditioned passengers,” a senior officer in Delhi said.
The survey launched by the railways begins with the age group of the respondent, his or her occupation and the frequency of travel. Respondents must also reveal what class they travel in and whether they carry beddings along. The next set of questions is about the quality of bedrolls supplied on trains and satisfaction levels. The survey then wants to know whether respondents would prefer disposable linen.
“The survey goes beyond hygiene and cleanliness. Respondents are asked what quality of bed sheets they would prefer and even their choice of colour. The choices given are light colour, white or dark shades. People are also asked whether they would prefer printed bed sheets and the kind of pattern on them. The choices are large prints, small all over prints or geometric prints. Passengers can also say whether they prefer cotton, cotton polyester or polyester sheets,” the official said.
The final portion of the survey deals with whether passengers want disposable pillow covers. Respondents are also asked how much they are prepared to shell out. There are multiple choices. Passengers can choose Rs 60 and the maximum is between Rs 120 and Rs 150. The final question is whether passengers want the bedrolls to have fire retardant properties.