Crores shelled out on cleaning trains can't take paan stains off

Expenditure of about Rs 2 crore, a bunch of hi-tech machines, and army of washers and cleaners unable to get smudges, posters off Mumbai locals

The red stain could be said to be the trademark of the Mumbai local. Thousands of litres of water, crores of rupees, and uncountable cleaning hours haven't been able to scrub the paan stains and unauthorised posters off the walls of the city's locals, that still look freshly dunked in a pool of grime.

The washing plant in Kurla car shed that is used to clean
filthy local trains fails in the face of spit stains

While the Central Railway has state-of the-art automated cleaning machines, each costing around Rs 60 lakh, at their car sheds in Kurla, Sanpada and Kalwa, the Western Railway contracted a private company for a whopping Rs 4.46 crore in June 2010 to wash the trains at its car sheds at Mumbai Central and Kandivli.
But the high-end cleaning plants have failed in the face of the ubiquitous gob of spit, which has lent itself to a shapeless patchwork of smutty red on each of the 190-odd local trains in which 70 lakh Mumbaikars spend a considerable time of their day.

"Railway authorities are not able to cope with the cleaning process of so many locals," said Subhash Gupta, former member, National Railway Users Consultative Committee.
Commuters say they steel themselves when they have to sit near the train's window as they invariably find someone spitting - paan, cough, and what have you - or find a spit stain already in place.

Chewed up and spat out gums form another source of revulsion. "I am repulsed by the idea that I would have to touch any part of the train. But I suppress my dusgust, and hold something for grip," said Revti Sharma, a daily commuter.

Labour lost
"The machines are there but the paan stains and filth are difficult to scrub. We have to employ workers to manually clean the rakes even after they have been washed mechanically in the sheds," said a senior WR official on condition of anonymity.

Their two car sheds clean four trains each everyday. They utilise around 350 litres of water for cleaning one coach, on its interior and exterior. "With this mechanised machine, we save 30 per cent water. But paan stains and stickers continue to be a problem," said chief PRO, S Chandrayan, WR.

The Central Railway (CR) isn't faring well in eradicating the filth from trains. "There is no option but to go for a second round of cleaning every day. The metal bodies of trains bear the stains for long," said a senior CR official.

They consume around 500 litres of water to clean each coach. The CR authorities clean and wash 10 trains of 12 coaches every day at their sheds. "We are running campaigns to make people understand the need to keep trains clean," said V Malegaonkar, chief PRO, CR.

The railway authorities are planning to change the body of the train while buying 72 rakes in the coming days.

Rs 1.44 cr
The amount CR and WR together spend per year to scrub 193 suburban locals

2 litres

The amount of special graffiti-removing detergent used along with 10 litres of non-caustic detergent per train

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