In a significant decision that will vastly improve rail journey in the world, Indian Railways is going to remove all non-AC coaches from mail and express trains, replacing them with a newly designed AC coach. The railways have decided that barring slow-moving and local trains, all other trains will have AC-coaches only, according to a report by the Economic Times.
For this mega change, a new AC coach has been designed by Indian Railways, which is being manufactured at Rail Coach Factory at Kapurthala in Punjab. The newly designed AC three-tier coaches will have 83 berths, in place of the 72 berths in the current three-tier sleeper coaches. The new coaches are currently under trial.
The fare for these coaches will be less than current three-tier AC coaches, but will be more than the sleeper coaches. Which means, a category of fares will be introduced after this coach is added to the trains replacing the sleeper coaches. Reportedly, these coaches will be called AC3 tourist class.
Railway Board Chairman and CEO Vinod Kumar Yadav said that the main reason to replace the sleeper coaches with to AC coaches is to achieve the objective of raising the speed of about 1,900 mail and express trains to 130 kmph by 2023 in the golden quadrilateral section and then to 160 kmph by 2025. He said that increasing the speed requires abandoning non-AC coaches, as these coaches slow down train due to wind and dust.
He informed that once trains start travelling at average speed of 130 kmph, non-AC coaches will create technical and other problems because of wind and dust. Therefore, the Railways will gradually phase out all non-AC coaches in about 1,900 mail and express trains. This will be a big exercise and it will be done in a phased manner.
The prototype for the new AC coach has been built at the rail factory in Kapurthala, and the production will start from next fiscal. To accommodate 83 berths in place of 72, Railways is not re-introducing the infamous side-middle berth. Instead, the electrical units will be moved and the cabinets used to keep blankets, pillows and bedsheets will be removed. This create space for installing the additional berths at the both end of the coaches.
The Railway Board Chairman said that the vision of Railways is to increase the speed of all mail and express trains to 130 kmph initially and then to 160 kmph by 2025. When this is achieved, trains will stop only at major locations, and there will connecting trains to other stations. He said that despite the upgrade from non-AC to AC, the fare hike will not be steep, as the number of berths is being increased per coach. Therefore, the fare will be between present AC and sleeper classes. The existing AC 3 tier coaches will continue, as the new coaches will replace only sleeper coaches.
The passenger and local rains will remain non-AC, but those are also being replaced with MEMU trains.
The Railway Board Chairman also revealed some other future plans of Indian Railways in the interview given to the Economic Times, like merger of eight existing production units into two and the upgrade of in-house capabilities to manufacture high-speed coaches. Yadav said that the proposal is to merge the eight production units into two, one for making locomotives and the other for building coaches of all types. They are waiting for the detailed study report to be submitted by RITES in this regard.
“The idea is to upgrade our existing facilities so that we can manufacture high-speed, semi highspeed and metro coaches at one place. India should emerge as a major coach-exporting hub,” Yadav said. He said that the process of building an aluminium-based lightweight train prototype, which will eventually replace the rakes being used in Vande Bharat Express, has already begun at the Modern Coach Factory in Raebareli.
Yadav informed that high-speed rail corridors are being planned in Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Varanasi, Mumbai-Nagpur, Ahmedabad-Delhi, Chennai-Mysuru, Delhi-Amritsar, Mumbai-Hyderabad, and Varanasi-Kolkata routes. These could either be high speed, meaning over 300 kmph or semi high-speed, which is more than 160 kmph. Final decision on speed will be taken once the feasibility reports are submitted.