Imagine a journey of over 12 hours on Indian Railways through out which you are not authorized to take refreshments or answer nature’s call. It may sound weird, but this is how the journey has been for more than 60,000 locomotive pilots, or engine drivers, over the last 163 years.
Whenever they demanded for a toilet in the engine, the Indian Railways argued that it was not feasible to authorise drivers to halt a running train for taking refreshments or urinating.
In what will come as a major relief to these drivers, the Indian Railways will on Friday introduce the first locomotive fitted with a bio-toilet. The engine would be flagged off by railway minister Suresh Prabhu.
According to railway officials, these bio-toilets have been fitted with various sensors and features. The doors of the toilets would open only when the train speed is zero and the locomotive pilots won’t be able to use it while the train is moving. When the locomotive pilot is inside the toilet, the engine brakes will not be released by any system. They added that the decision was announced by the railway minister during 2016-17 rail budget speech too.
Interestingly, in India, different transportation systems have different rules and regulations. For instance, bus drivers are allowed to take a break after five hours of driving, while Delhi Metro train drivers are given 40 minutes’ break after every three hours. Airline pilots are allowed breaks after regular intervals depending on the length of journey.
The Indian Railway Loco Running Men’s Organisation (IRLRO), an organisation representing railway locomotive pilots, welcomed the move, but added that it has come with strings attached. “We have moved the National Human Rights Commission too because the condition for drivers like us are very inhumane. Most of the time we are under so much stress that it could contribute to train accidents too,” said an IRLRO member, who didn’t wanted to be named.