What a relief!
Having already introduced a third foldable berth between the two side berths in around 7,000 AC-3 and Sleeper class coaches in the past few months, the Indian Railways, facing immense flak over passenger discomfort, is ready to give the idea a quiet burial.
Even as the Railway Ministry recently sought a feedback on the move from the travelling public by putting up a feedback form on its reservation website, senior Railway Ministry officials told The Indian Express that an “in principle” decision has already been taken that no new coaches manufactured from now on will have the additional berth.
Also, the Railways has dropped the idea of retrofitting another 9,000 coaches it had planned to earlier. However, the existing “high-capacity coaches”, as they are called, will continue to be used by passengers, said ministry sources.
“A significant sum of money has already been spent in providing the extra berth in around 7,000 coaches. While most of these coaches were old and retrofitted with the additional berth, some new coaches have also been made to have this provision. There is no going back on this. What we have decided is that no new coaches manufactured from now on will have this provision,” a senior Rail Bhavan official, requesting anonymity, said.
Railways original plan was to retrofit as many as 16,000 existing coaches with the extra berth and introduce it in all new coaches being manufactured. Now, to address problems being faced in high-capacity coaches, the Railways is planning to operate these trains on short-distance overnight routes and not the longer ones.
Introducing this additional berth had enabled the Railways to increase the seating capacity in AC 3 coaches from 64 to 72 and in Sleeper coaches from 72 to 81.
The Railways had also offered discounts ranging between 4 to 8 per cent in these high-capacity coaches. However, the move led to sharp public outcry with hundreds of passenger complaints pouring in.
One of the primary complaints related to the fact that the passenger using this extra-berth to sleep during the night was being accommodated with the three passenger using the berth on the cabin side to sit during the daytime. Another problem arose when the Railways decided to put a few high-capacity coaches in between conventional coaches. “This sent the entire seating system haywire. A person who was allotted a lower berth at the time of booking found himself on an upper berth at the time of travel because the conventional coach had been replaced by a high-capacity one,” an official explained.
An Indian Express Report