INDIAN RAILWAYSIN NEED OF A CHANGE Kochouseph Chittilappilly
• Three weeks back, I happened to travel in a train from Kochi to Kozhikkode and back. In the early days of my business, I used to hop in and out of trains, on a daily basis. Times changed and I grew older. The train journeys became fewer. In the last couple of years, I haven’t really boarded a train, except on my visit to China. But then, nothing has changed with our railways.• The stations, the trains and the coaches all looked the same. I did expect the Indian Railways to change with the times. My expectations were totally unfounded. In disappointment, I sat down on one of those hard, stiff seats. After an hour, I began to experience a back pain. I wondered, couldn’t they at least offer seats that are contoured and comfortable? For a moment, I thought of the endless debates that I would have with our engineers at Wonderla, often stretching to hours, over designing the most comfortable seats for our visitors on various rides. The toilets were ill kept and were stinking. Again, no change either in the style or in design. Science has made rapid progress, but Indian Railways has remained unfazed. Even in these times, the railways have not adopted any modern means for waste disposal. Our trains chug along, spewing waste and human excreta along miles of its tracks. Ironically, this is a land where stringent pollution laws are enacted with the Pollution Control Board to enforce it. Can’t they at least install an electronic display system, inside the train, to indicate the next station instead having passengers peer out into the darkness, in search of name boards of the stations that rush past?
• The return journey was equally painful. The train started from Kannur and I boarded from Kozhikkode. A few banana peels and food, left behind presumably by the passenger who alighted at the earlier station welcomed me. I picked it up, searched for a bin, found one, deposited it and quietly settled in. The coach was teeming with cockroaches. But, the railways had dutifully pasted a notice stating that the coach was disinfected, a few days ago. If this is the state in the higher classes, I wonder about the condition of the general compartments. The Indian Railways is the largest railway network in the world comprising 115,000 Kms of tracks over a route of 65,000 Km, covering 7,500 stations. Don’t we deserve better? Doesn’t the Railways have a larger responsibility the public ?• Maybe, it’s the monopoly that has caused the lethargic. The Railways have had no competition that have threatened its existence. And therefore it continues to remain unmindful of the times, refusing to evolve. To draw an analogy, over the past three decades, our stabilizers have undergone major design changes at least 20 times. Three times, even the cabinet designs were changed. I constantly egg my engineers on, to design our products to cater to the needs of the times and even surprise the customer, by exceeding his expectations. It is this constant search for excellence that keeps us ahead. We have come to expect change in every walk of life. But, I believe ‘change’ is a concept still alien to the Indian railways• My journey on a train in China was in stark contrast. The journey on the bullet trains was really awesome. Even normal passenger trains were much sleeker, better designed and more comfortable than some of our best trains. Better infrastructure and better public transport facilities have greatly aided China, in its rapid growth. I couldn’t but help but compare. I’m sure that you must all have a few thoughts and a few experiences to share on the Indian railways. How should it change? Do share your thoughts and views with me.
• Interior of a train in China. Convenient racks for baggage, screens that display oncoming stations and play movies as well .
• Contoured reclining seats on the train in China
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