AC travel in Railways to soon become more comfortable

Fares for the AC trains have increased significantly in the last few years, but the facilities have not improved in the same proportion. Also, revised flexi-fare scheme on cards!

NEW DELHI: Your travel in the AC coaches of Indian Railways is likely to be more comfortable soon. The national transporter has decided to refurbish all the AC coaches every six years to give a premium and comfortable feel for the passengers.

Railway Board in a circular has told its zonal offices to refurbish AC coaches in every sixth year along with the periodic overhauls. As per the plan, all AC coaches including two-tier AC, three-tier AC, first class and chair car will be refurbished during the sixth year from the date of induction. Both old ICF coaches and modern Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches will be covered under the project. The cost of refurbishing is likely to be around Rs 10 lakh per coach.

Fares for the AC trains have increased significantly in the last few years, but the facilities have not improved in the same proportion. The railways was forced to take this decision as it was flooded with complaints with poor condition of facilities in AC coaches. With this revamp, the railways plans to enhance the life of the coaches and provide better passenger comforts.

In 2017, then railway minister Suresh Prabhu had initiated a project to refurbish all 40,000 rail coaches including sleeper coaches at a cost of around Rs 30 lakh each by 2022-2023. Under the initial plan, coaches were to be revamped by modifying berths, installing reading and LED lights, modular bio-toilets, fire and smoke detection system, more mobile and laptop charging ports and small LCD screens in Shatabdis.

But the project is now been modified due to paucity of funds. Due to shortage of funds, Railways has now decided to currently revamp the AC coaches in the first phase.

Railways set to come up with revised flexi-fare scheme next month

The railways is all set to come up with a revised flexi-fare scheme next month to bring in some relief for passengers, who, in some sectors pay as much as airfares for the premium trains, sources said. They said the ministry is planning to suspend the scheme temporarily as an experiment during lean months in some identified trains as they are seeing occupancy as low as 30 per cent.

They said another option being considered is revising the scheme as per a formula used in the Humsafar trains in which the first 50 per cent berths will be sold at a 15 per cent higher price than the base price. The slab will change with every 10 per cent of the berth sold thereafter.

Similarly, the government is also mulling options to bring in special discounts under the scheme in less busy routes.

The final shape for such a move will be announced by next week, an official said as its removal would also lead to refunds for advance bookings.

Recently, a CAG report had come down hard on the railways for the flexi-fare prices and it stated a comparison with airfare for 13 sectors showed that travelling in airplanes was cheaper than in train for a large number of routes.

In terms of absolute numbers, the premium trains carried 2.40 crore passengers during post-flexi period (September 9, 2016 to July 31, 2017) as compared to 2.47 crore passengers during pre-flexi period (September 9, 2015 to July 31, 2016), said the CAG in its report.

Citizens write to Western Railway after paying first class fare for general coach travel

First class passengers of Bandra Terminus-Surat Intercity Express feel cheated after Western Railway (WR) replaced both the first class chair cars in the train by general class coaches in July but continued to sell first class tickets and passes.

According to sources, the WR has been selling, on average, about 100 passes and 150 tickets for first class travel even after it detached first class coaches from the train on July 11.

“I don’t understand why the railways is issuing first class passes and tickets if coaches for that class are not available in the trains running between Mumbai and Surat,” said daily commuter Manthan Shah. “Many a time passengers of second class as well as general class enter our coach as it is no different. Even after we show our tickets, they don’t leave,” said Manthan.

Manthan is not the only commuter to complain. More than 50 first class passengers of the train have written to the divisional railway manager of Western Railway about it.

In their letter dated August 22, the passengers said, “We feel cheated as after paying huge amounts for the first class season tickets, we have to travel in general class coaches. We used to travel in first class chair cars until July 11 when the Western Railway replaced one of them with a general coach. When we complained, we were told that the coaches would be upgraded in some time, but after a while even the second chair car was replaced by a general compartment.’’