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Forget flights! Indian Railways upgrades train travel for common man, unreserved & premium passengers; 5 facts

Debjit Sinha

Forget flights, board Indian Railways trains! Piyush Goyal-led Indian Railways says it is redefining train travel experience, like never before. With the introduction of smart, passenger-friendly trains, travellers, Indian Railways is raising the bar on the comfort and entertainment quotient. The improvement in onboard passenger amenities is across all classes of travel – from trains for unreserved passengers (Antyodaya) to those in which the common man travels (Mail/Express) and the premium category trains like Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express. Here are the top 5 steps by Indian Railways to change train travel experience:

1. Vande Bharat Express or Train 18: For the first time, Indian Railways has manufactured a semi-high speed self-propelled train set with world-class facilities. Conceptualised as the Shatabdi Express killer, Train 18 or the Vande Bharat Express is a definitive peek into the way Indian Railways trains will be made and the comforts they will offer.

The 16-coach AC Chair car engine-less train can attain speeds of 160 kmph and offers features like; automatic doors with sliding footsteps, fully sealed gangways, aircraft-like LED lighting, bio-vacuum toilets, European style seats etc. Piyush Goyal-led Indian Railways has said that over the next 3-5 years, 100 more such Train 18-type train sets will be manufactured.

2. Humsafar Express: Looking to provide enhanced comfort to long-distance travellers, Indian Railways has been introducing Humsafar Express trains, an all AC-3 tier train service for overnight journeys. In terms of amenities, Humsafar Express trains are a more premium version of the Rajdhani Express AC 3-tier coaches. With features like comfortable berths, CCTV cameras, modular toilets, GPS-based passenger information systems, mobile charging points, fire retardant system and mini-pantry with coffee/tea dispensers in each coach, Humsafar Express trains have become a popular travel option for Indian Railways passengers.

Humsafar Express trains running on crucial routes like Agartala, Bangalore, Ahmedabad junction, Chennai City, Ajni Pune Junction, Allahabad Junction Anand Vihar Terminal, Gorakhpur, Bandra and others have garnered positive reviews.

3. Antyodaya and Deen Dayalu: Antyodaya Express trains and Deen Dayalu coaches are an offering by Indian Railways for the unreserved passengers. While Antyodaya Express train is a fully unreserved service, Deen Dayalu coaches are attached to reserved trains based on the demand on the route. These coaches and trains have features like cushioned luggage racks, additional hand hold in doorway area, j hooks for hanging carry bags, toilet occupancy indication display board, more mobile charging facilities and Aquaguard water.

Financial Express Online had exclusively reported that Indian Railways plans to manufacture 1,000 Deen Dayalu coaches in the next three years and 100 coaches or 5 rakes of the Antyodaya Express trains.

4. Operation Swarn and Anubhuti coaches: Aiming to upgrade Shatabdi and Rajdhani Express trains, Indian Railways plans to bring them to “gold standard” under Operation Swarn. The passenger experience has been improved on parameters which include coach interiors, toilets, on-board, cleanliness, staff behaviour, catering, linen, punctuality, security, on-board entertainment.

While in the first phase around 30 rakes were identified, Financial Express Online recently reported that by September this year all Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains will be covered. Simultaneously, Indian Railways has also introduced Anubhuti coaches on 10 Shatabdi Express trains with aircraft-like features such as personalised LCD entertainment screens, attendant calling buttons, reading lights, comfortable seats etc.

5. Project Utkrisht: Under Project Utkrisht, passengers in Mail/Express trains will be provided better travel comfort with improved aesthetics and stink-free toilets. By March 2019, 140 rakes of Mail/Express trains are being upgraded at a cost of Rs 60 lakh each and in the second phase 500 rakes will be given a makeover.