With the coronavirus pandemic forcing the Indian Railways to suspend the age-old practice of providing linen to those traveling in air-conditioned coaches as a precautionary measure, the national carrier has now shifted towards the use of disposable blankets, pillow covers and bedsheets which are discretionary and chargeable. Pune railway station on Saturday opened a kiosk to sell these items to passengers, making it one of the first few such kiosks across the country.
A few weeks ago, Patna railway station had opened one such kiosk for passengers.
“We have started the first kiosk on Platform No.1 and two others will soon come up on Platform No. 2 and 3. These will sell disposable bedsheets, blanket, pillows and pillow covers to passengers and will remain open round the clock. The aim is to provide clean and virus-free linen to passengers,” said Manoj Jhawar, Public Relations Officer, Pune Division.
The Railways had started about 200 special train services from June 1. At that time, the authorities had made it clear that no linen will be provided in the air-conditioned coaches, as was the usual practice. Later, as more special trains started operating, the Railways continued the practice.
However, it was causing inconvenience to passengers as they had to carry their own blankets, pillows and pillow covers.
Although there has been no formal announcement so far, the Indian Railways is said to have formed a committee to decide if the ‘washable linen service’ should be discontinued permanently.
Quality of the linen provided to passengers has always been a controversial issue for the Railways with a big chunk of grievances that it received from passengers were about the linen. In fact, questions have been often asked in Parliament about the linen service.
As per the estimates, at present, there are around 18 lakh linen sets in circulation. For washing each linen set, the Railways is estimated to spend Rs 40-50. A blanket provided by the Railways remains in service for nearly 48 months, and it is washed once a month.
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