mid-day takes 'Survive-Platform-Loo' challenge: The railways toilet report card stinks

Four brave mid-day reporters and five photographers took on a challenge no one wanted to touch — to test drive public toilets on platforms across the Western, Central and Harbour lines. Here's the report card

Let's talk grubby urinals, Mumbai’s local train commuters told Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu this April, when on a visit to the city, he took an unplanned ride on a local from Currey Road to CST. Filthy public toilets have emerged top commuter woe, say recent reports, with the rail authorities and the BMC passing the buck over their upkeep. mid-day reported on May 11 that the Railways considers running trains its core job and in a coordination committee meeting had discussed that the BMC build loos 100 metres away from station premises and maintain them because it was a civic body’s job to do so.

This men’s toilet on Borivali’s platform 6, with jerry cans and buckets upturned into the commodes, is a nightmare for commuters. Pic/Nimesh Dave
This men’s toilet on Borivali’s platform 6, with jerry cans and buckets upturned into the commodes, is a nightmare for commuters. Pic/Nimesh Dave

While the pass-the-parcel continues, we took a two-day railway loo test-drive. Here’s how it went.

Western Railway

The station: Churchgate
Daily (avg) commuters: 1,05,518
Loo present? Yes
Visited by: Silky Sharma and Ajinkya Sawant
Hygiene: The women’s toilet was clean and fully tiled. The toilet seats were kept dry, wash basin and floors mopped clean. The janitor was around when we visited.
Availability of water:
Water was on tap and the flush worked but the janitor complained of erratic supply. We spotted leaking taps.
Accessibility: The lavatory sits on the white tiled concourse near the ticket counters and is easily accessible.
Charges: A fare chart was up, and commuters were being charged accordingly.
Maintenance: A rotary floor machine was being used to mop the floors outside the toilet block on the station concourse. But the stink from the men’s toilet was unbearable.
Ventilation: Ventilation was adequate and we spotted exhaust fans.
Dustbin: Present.

The station: Mahalaxmi
Daily avg commuters: 45,000
Loo present? Yes
Visited by: Silky Sharma and Ajinkya Sawant
Hygiene: Filthy and congested. The walls were splashed with paan stains; the toilet seats were dirty.
Accessibility: Only one toilet block sits at the centre of the platform. Men used the women’s loo. Women stayed away entirely.
Charges: No cost chart was found. The janitor wasn’t collecting money.
Availability of water: Dry taps.
Ventilation: The sole exhaust fan in the women’s loo wasn’t working.
Maintenance: The janitor admitted that he allowed men to use the women’s loo.

The station: Charni Road
Daily (avg) commuters: 58,000
Loo present? Yes
Visited by: Silky Sharma and Ajinkya Sawant
Hygiene: The stench was overpowering and the wash basin was clogged.
Availability of water: While drought made headlines on TV, taps inside the women’s loo were running unattended. The three urinals weren’t connected to the water pipeline.
Charges: Rs 2 (big job), Rs 1 (small job), read a sign. We were charged as per rate.
Accessibility: A prominent sign led commuters to the toilet block.
Ventilation: Poor. The only exhaust fan wasn’t functioning, leading to a stench.
Maintenance: Well tiled from outside, it held two water tanks on its roof. The windows to the men’s loo unfortunately offered an unhindered view.
Dustbin: Present.

The station: Andheri
Daily avg commuters: 2,50,750
Loo present? Not on platform. It’s located on the elevated deck.
Visited by: Shikha Vatsala and Fatema T
Hygiene: It was clean and well kept. Urinals were in good condition and the janitor said it was mopped up four times a day.
Availability of water: Available, flush worked.
Accessibility: We didn’t spot a signboard that led commuters to the toilet. It took us 10 minutes to locate it. We spotted a separate set of urinals for children. Thoughtful.
Charges: We saw the janitor overcharging commuters.
Maintenance: Of the two washbasins, only one was functional. The water coolers next to the toilet block were in poor condition. One was blocked by a metal pillar.
Ventilation: Well ventilated with exhaust fans.
Dustbin: Filthy broken bucket placed beneath wash basins.

The station: Bandra
Daily avg. commuters: 1,35,640
Loo present? Yes
Visited by: Shikha Vatsala and Fatema T
Hygiene: The men’s loo was open and stinking. There is only one loo for women with a broken flush.
Availability of water: The wash basin was common for both men and women. It had running water.
Accessibility: Since it’s the only toilet on the platform, it’s easily found. We also found a loo for the disabled. The entrance to the women’s loo should be changed; it directly faces the platform.
Charges: They charged R2 for the urinal and toilet.
Maintenance: It was in average condition inside but the structure needs a maintenance job. The
men’s loo was open and the flush wasn’t working.
Ventilation: The women’s loo was stuffy. We saw no windows or exhaust.
Dustbin: Missing.

The station: Lower Parel
Daily avg commuters: 66,000
Loo present? Yes
Visited by: Silky Sharma and Ajinkya Sawant
When mid-day visited the women’s loo, it was locked and no janitor was in sight.

The station: Dadar
Daily avg. commuters: 1,45,415
Loo present? Yes
Visited by: Shikha Vatsala and Fatema T
Hygiene: Wash basins were present and the urinals were being cleaned. The floor was neat. We hear it is cleaned six times a day.
Availability of water: Available in wash basins and loos.
Accessibility: Yes; there is an additional deluxe toilet block.
Charges: Rs 2 for women and Rs 1 for men inside the deluxe toilet (wonder why the difference?). Rs 5 for big job (both genders).
Maintenance: Average. Buckets were missing.
Ventilation: Well ventilated with huge exhausts.
Dustbin: Placed near wash basin but broken.

The station: Malad
Daily avg. commuters: 1,55,000
Loo present? Yes
Visited by: Shashank Rao and Nimesh Dave
Hygiene: Urinals cleaner than toilets. An empty alcohol bottle was found into one of the urinal blocks.
Availability of water: Pipes were rusty. The water flow was reed thin.
Accessibility: Stands at the end of the platform, so was easily accessible.
Charges: The fare chart was torn. The janitor was charging what he wished. Male janitor was manning the women’s loo. Creepy.
Maintenance: Below average. Children were seen playing on the roof.
Ventilation: Average. Exhaust fans were present but growling and old.
Dustbin: Missing.

Harbour Line

The station: CST
Daily avg. commuters: 1,09,700
Loo present? Yes
Visited by: Shashank Rao and Atul Kamble
Hygiene: The HQ of Central Railway is one of the most congested in the world. The toilet block here is the largest on this line and marked by long queues. The partitions inside urinals were dirty, and the toilets could be better maintained (although the happy dolphin tiles were a surprise).
Availability of water: Not all taps were functioning. The pipes were leaking.
Accessibility: Easily accessible since it is on the concourse.
Charges: The janitor was overcharging selectively.
Maintenance: There is scope for improvement.
Ventilation: The exhausts are functioning but the stench continues to rule.
Dustbin: Present.

The station: Nerul
Daily avg. commuters: 42,870
Loo present? Yes
Visited by: Faisal Tandel and Sameer Markhande
Hygiene: The tiles and floor were clean but the urinals need better maintenance. Due to water shortage, it is cleaned only once every morning.
Availability of water: Was available. We saw water being ferried to wash cars parked in the marking lot.
Accessibility: Easily located but is almost at the fag end of the station. The toilet on the station premises is used only by ticket checkers and railway staff. No signboards pointed to the toilet.
Charges: Rs 5 (big and small job) and Rs 10 for bath.
Maintenance: The windows were broken and there was graffiti on the walls. The wash basin needs repairs.
Ventilation: There was a one exhaust.
Dustbin: Missing.

The station: Reay Road
Daily avg. commuters: 16,530
Loo present: Yes
Visited by: Shashank Rao and Atul Kamble
Hygiene: A new toilet has replaced an old one that was in shambles. The structure is well maintained from the inside, with clean tiles and urinal partitions.
Availability of water: Available. Four large water tanks sat beside the block. Fixtures were in good condition.
Accessibility: Good. A loo for the disabled is present but was locked.
Charges: Rate chart displayed and charges collected accordingly.
Maintenance: The new toilet was spick and span with the janitor sitting right opposite. The old toilet which is in a mess is likely to be demolished.
Ventilation: Fitted with multiple exhausts.
Dustbin: Present.

The station: Wadala
Daily avg. commuters: 49,200
Loo present? Yes
Visited by: Shashank Rao and Atul Kamble
Hygiene: It’s poorly maintained. The partitions of urinals were stained, the tiles were mucky. The janitor couldn’t care less.
Availability of water: The taps were leaking. The wash basins had water supply.
Accessibility: It can be easily located. Another toilet on platform no. 4 has an open urinal and the women’s loo was locked and had an iron grill.
Charges: The rate chart had the amounts scratched out.
Maintenance: The loo on platform no. 4 was better maintained. The one on platform no. 1 was shabby with the janitor sitting idle. Around it were stacked broken ATVMs and rusted furniture.
Ventilation: Messy, dusty and it stank.
Dustbin: Missing.

The station: Sandhurst Road
Daily avg. commuters: 23,990
Loo present: Yes
Visited by: Shashank Rao and Atul Kamble
Hygiene: The tiles, walls and ceiling were in terrible condition. Seepage was evident on walls as well as on the ceiling above the water tank. The stench here was overpowering.
Availability of water: The taps ran a trickle.
Accessibility: Was fine.
Charges: A rate card was displayed and money was being collected. No attendant was seen for men’s loo. There was one for women’s loo.
Maintenance: Congested during peak hours, and it needs better upkeep.
Ventilation: Cobwebs and dirt covered the exhausts.
Dustbin: Missing.

Central Railway (Main line)

The station: Kurla
Daily avg. commuters: 95,330
Loo present: Yes
Visited by: Silky Sharma and Datta Kumbhar
Hygiene: There are two toilets at Kurla station, one on platform 1 and another platforms 2-3. We found both in a dilapidated condition, especially the latter. The women’s loo was dilapidated. The toilet bowl was clogged and the taps were running. Excreta lay on the tiles inside.
Availability of water: No bucket or mug was available in the toilet.
Charges: People were using it for free.
Accessibility: With just two urinals, there was a long queue even during non-rush hours.
Ventilation: Unbearable stench
Maintenance: Not maintained at all. No woman in her right mind would use it.
Dustbin: Present in 1 but overflowing. Absent in 2-3.

The station: Byculla
Daily avg. commuters: 42,700
Loo present? Yes
Visited by: Silky Sharma and Datta Kumbhar
Hygiene: Toilets were in bad shape, the wash basin was clogged. The toilet seats were clean but the flush was missing.
Availability of water: The taps were leaking inside the women’s toilet. The wash basin pipe was broken inside the men's loo. Water was being wasted.
Charges: No one was paying according to the rate card.
Accessibility: Easily accessible.
Ventilation: The windows were shut. Suffocating.
Maintenance: They have miles to go before they sleep.
Dustbin: Present outside the loo.

The station: Currey Road
Daily avg. commuters: 24,400
Loo present? Yes
Visited by: Silky Sharma and Datta Kumbhar
Hygiene: The walls were tiled, the toilet seats clean. No stains anywhere.
Availability of water: Running water was available in the tap and the flush. The tap in the women’s loo was leaking and the wash basin was clogged.
Charges: A rate card was pasted but not everyone was paying up.
Accessibility: The passage to the bathroom is narrow. There is only one toilet in the women’s section, so it gets overcrowded during peak hours.
Ventilation: Waste was dumped around and spit stains were everywhere. The women’s toilet was small and missing an exhaust.
Maintenance: It looked like it wasn’t frequented by a janitor.
Dustbin: Bucket for a dustbin.

The station: Ghatkopar
Daily avg. commuters: 1,07,500
Loo present? Yes
Visited by: Silky Sharma and Datta Kumbhar
Hygiene: In good condition. The dustbin was closed, handwash bottles were by the basin. Both women’s toilets were spacious. Something needs to be done about the stench.
Charges: Highest rate across stations we visited — Rs 5. We found no rate chart.
Availability of water: Available on tap and in flush.
Accessibility: Can be easily located.
Ventilation: Appropriate.
Maintenance: Doors had suitable locks. The premises were tidy.
Dustbin: Missing.

The station: Mulund
Daily avg. commuters: 99,070
Loo present? Yes
Visited by: Silky Sharma and Datta Kumbhar
Hygiene: Toilets on platform no. 1 were in average condition. The taps were running, the flush was missing, and the floor was wet. The stench was terrible. The women’s toilet on another platform was shuttered. A man standing outside said he chooses to keep it shut because “eunuchs enter and do mischief”.
Availability of water: Available.
Accessibility: The women’s loo stands in the middle of platform no.1, so it is easy to locate.
Charges: A rate card was pasted. (Rs 1 for urinal, Rs 2 for big job). Ventilation: Poor. It’s difficult to stand anywhere near the toilet block.
Dustbin: Bucket instead of dustbin. Sanitary napkins were strewn on the floor.

The station: Kanjurmarg
Daily avg. commuters: 43,470
Loo present? Yes, but locked
Visited by: Silky Sharma and Datta Kumbhar
A new toilet block was under construction when we visited. The overall infrastructure of station seemed upgraded.

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