NEW DELHI: Smelly blankets provided in trains may soon be a thing of the past as the Railways is planning to wash them every fortnight as against once in two months now. It has also proposed bringing in lighter blankets for passengers’ comfort.
The dirty blankets provided in trains became a talking point last year after Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha said in Parliament that while bed sheets and pillow covers were washed every day, blankets were washed every two months. This made former Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari comment that it was better for passengers to bring blankets from home.
According to the Railway Board, a proposal has been moved for approval by its finance department to increase the frequency of washing blankets from six times per year to 24 times.
“That is likely to reduce the life of blankets from four years to one year, which means the annual cost will increase. But the priority is to provide clean bedrolls to passengers in trains,” said a senior railway ministry official.
The Railways is also considering acquiring lighter, spun blankets, which are easy to manage and wash compared to thick blankets provided to passengers in AC coaches. The Railways provide four lakh bedrolls every day, comprising of pillows, two bed sheets, a blanket and a towel.
A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General tabled in Parliament in June 2017 had rapped the Indian Railways for dirty linen in trains and said it violated all guidelines. It found that blankets and pillows were not dry cleaned or sanitised for long periods before being given to passengers.
The Railways had also planned to provide disposable bedrolls to passengers, but it could not succeed for operational and economic reasons. In 2016, a pilot project providing blanket covers in First AC coaches was started in Lucknow Mail, but, according to the Railways, the venture cannot be expanded to all trains for logistical reasons.
The Railways plans to shift from manual washing to mechanised laundries.