Indian Railways to pack in more people in sleepers

By Faraz Ahmed, IANS

New Delhi : The already overcrowded coaches of Indian Railways will now be packed further following Railway Minister Lalu Prasad’s directive to add a middle berth to the two side-berths in regular and AC sleeper bogies.

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The three-tier sleeper coaches only have two berths along the corridor and passengers now seat facing each other and the railways has now decided to add one more berth in the middle, a senior official said.

Currently, non-AC three-tier sleepers have 72 berths and AC three-tier sleepers have 64 berths. Now nine berths are being added in non-AC sleepers and eight in AC three-tier sleepers along the aisle by raising the upper berth and fitting one in the middle.

“In any case, this space is normally occupied during the day by short distance unreserved travellers or waitlisted passengers,” said a railway official. “It will not pose any problem in trains like Prayagraj Express or Lucknow Mail that start late at night and reach their destination early morning,” he added.

“This may also discourage unreserved travellers from boarding reserved compartments since there would be no space to accommodate them anymore.”

The Rajdhani Express trains, which connect the national capital with various state capitals, will be exempted from this exercise, said railway officials.

According to Niraj Kumar, executive director for coaching with the Indian Railways, funds for the proposal have already been allocated. He said that retrofitting work on each coach would cost around Rs.150,000.

“Jhelum Express has already been fitted with extra berths on an experimental basis and the response has been good,” said a railway official, adding there were 12,500 non-AC sleepers and 1,500 AC 3-tier sleepers currently in use.

“The work will be done gradually, without disturbing the routine. When coaches go to workshops for monthly servicing and checkups, they will be retrofitted with the extra berths,” said a senior officer in the ministry.

“The Research Design and Standard Organisation (RDSO) has approved the modified design and we have also got safety clearance to go ahead with the retrofitting in our workshops,” said Kumar.

Railways officials claim that the number of AC three-tier passengers increased from 20.61 million in 2005-06 to 23.89 million in 2006-07, while the number of passengers in non-AC sleepers rose from 177 million to 205 million in the same period.