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Automatic laundry facility for five more major railway stations

S. Vijay Kumar
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The automatic laundry system in operation in Chennai.— Photo: R. Ravindran
The automatic laundry system in operation in Chennai.— Photo: R. Ravindran

Satisfied with the performance of the automatic laundry system installed under the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) scheme in Chennai Division, Southern Railway has decided to extend it five major stations across the zone.

Amid frequent complaints from passengers on poor quality of bedrolls in upper class coaches, the Ministry of Railways announced that it would open laundries under the BOOT scheme, official sources said. The first and only of its kind laundry in the railways was commissioned by Southern Railway in Chennai more than a year ago. Encouraged by the capacity, quality of wash and cost-effectiveness, the authorities have decided to install the facility in Madurai, Coimbatore, Mangalore, Ernakulam and Tiruvananthapuram.

The six-tonne capacity (per shift) laundry involves steam wash and automatic drying, pressing and folding processes. It has the capacity to handle 18 tonnes in three shifts, though it is presently catering to only 37 trains on an average per day. While the railways has provided space adjacent to the Basin Bridge Junction yard, the contractor who was awarded the project has developed the infrastructure at an approximate cost of Rs. 15 crore, the sources said.

The existing system of laundry in other parts of the railways is that the linen is owned, washed and supplied by small contractors at a cost of Rs. 25 per bedroll. Though they have to replace the bedsheets/blankets every year, they do not do so citing heavy losses. As a rule, the linen is procured from the Association of Cooperatives and Apex Societies of Handlooms, Ministry of Textiles.

Since the contractors were not replacing the linen, complaints of stained or torn bedsheets/blankets/pillows poured in from the travelling public in recent years. As the small-time laundry business was not lucrative, many contractors showed little interest in continuing with the work.

“The laundry under BOOT scheme is yielding the desired results. The number of passenger complaints has come down drastically. We used to receive at least 30 written complaints a year regarding poor quality of bedrolls … now, it is just one complaint. The cost of operation is also reduced by Rs. 2 per bedroll,” Chief Mechanical Engineer S.K. Sood said.

In less than two years, the zone plans to operationalise laundries under BOOT scheme in five other locations. “After ten years, the infrastructure will be transferred to the complete ownership of the Railways. The project was eco-friendly and the contractor has taken steps to recycle the used water. The cost is also less and we will be able to sustain the cost at Rs. 25 per bedroll for a few years,” Mr. Sood added.

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