TENKASI: The Ministry of Railways has said only 120 electric locomotives, all of them connected to goods trains, are equipped with toilet/water closet facility for loco pilots in the country. None of the 900 locomotives of Southern Railway (SR) has such facilities.
In a reply to an RTI query by a member of Southern Railway Users’ Consultative Committee, R Pandiarajan, Director Standard Electrical and Public Information Officer Anurag Agarwal said nine railway zones (Central Railway - 15, West Central Railway - 16, Eastern Railway - 1, South Eastern Railway - 5, Northeast Frontier Railway - 1, South East Central Railway - 26, South Central Railway - 27, East Coast Railway - 28 and South Western Railway - 1) in India have provided toilet facility in a few locomotives.
“Steps are being taken to equip nine more locomotives with the facility. It is unacceptable that SR has no toilet facility in any of its locomotives,” said Pandiaraja. He said the number of women pilots alone in the country is nearly 1,000, and added, “This shows that the research and development wing of rail coach factories has failed to give importance to the needs of pilots. The Centre, which is focussing on bullet trains, should address the issue,” he added.
K Parthasarathy, Zonal Joint Secretary of All India Loco Running Staff Association, said loco pilots are working under stress due to lack of toilets. “We mostly avoid drinking water while at work. Due to this, we have started facing renal issues in our 40s. As a non-stop train running at 100 km/h speed crosses a signal every 33 seconds, we have to be very careful. But the urgency to urinate affects our concentration, which may even lead to accidents. Some pilots are forced to urinate by opening the door of a running train when its speed is low. But women pilots cannot do that. The Railways should make sure that all locomotives have toilets,” he urged.
When contacted, an SR official said the ministry is taking steps to make the locomotives pilot-friendly. “The worry about the lack of toilets for loco pilots has increased after women started taking the job. Since diesel engines will soon be phased out, we are focussing on how electric locomotives can be equipped with the facilities.”