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(Representative Image) (Source: The Financial Express)

Happy journey! How Indian Railways is upgrading passenger travel experience across all types of trains

Train passengers have reason to be happy! Indian Railways train journeys are set to see much better days ahead as the national transporter looks to upgrade its coaches across all classes of travel – from non-reserved sleeper to first AC!

This upgrade across all types of trains and coaches will see several new features being introduced for passenger comfort and overall cleanliness and hygiene.

Recently, Indian Railways revamped its menu for the Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi Express trains with a focus on quality rather than quantity.

A new ‘Menu on Rail’ app was launched to sensitise passengers about food rates and avoid the menace of overcharging by vendors. But perhaps the most important part of the revamp is the fact that Indian Railways is looking to make toilets more modular and clean. By March 2019, bio-toilets will be fitted on all Indian Railways trains. Several other changes including modular fittings, better ventilation and introduction of aircraft-like vacuum toilets (bio-toilets) are underway. We take a look at 5 significant ways in which travel experience on Indian Railways trains is getting a big face-lift.

1. Project Utkrisht: Under this ambitious project, Indian Railways is initially upgrading the rakes of 140 Mail/Express trains. As much as Rs 60 lakh has been sanctioned per rake for this purpose and the project is expected to be completed by March 2019. Project Utkrisht is aimed at upgrading ICF-design coaches and bring them at par with LHB coaches in terms of passenger comforts. Parameters such as enhancement to seats, berths, toilets, flooring, exterior etc have been identified. On board cleanliness forms another big part of the project. In the second phase 500 rakes will be upgraded!

2. Operation Swarn: This initiative aims at upgrading 15 Shatabdi and 14 Rajdhani Express trains to ‘Gold Standard’ at a cost of Rs 50 lakh per rake. The upgrade is based on 10 parameters such as swanky inetriors, plush toilets, safety and security, onboard entertainment and cleanliness. Several trains have already been given a facelift and the project is expected to be complete by August-end.

3. Catering to common man: In the last one-and-a-half year, Indian Railways has introduced several Antyodaya Express trains for unreserved passengers. This new category of trains has been made keeping in mind the comforts of the common man. Antyodaya Express is a fully unreserved train service with much better and comfortable seats, coat-hooks, cushioned luggage racks, extra mobile charging points and aqua-guard water. Apart from these trains, Indian Railways has also manufactured Deendayalu coaches for unreserved passengers with the same enhanced comforts as Antyodaya Express. These coaches are attached to regular trains depending on the demand.

4. Premium train travel: From Tejas Express train to Anubhuti coaches and the more popular Humsafar Express – Indian Railways has given a new meaning to premium travel on its network. While Tejas Express and Anubhuti coaches are an upgraded and more refined version of Shatabdi Express trains with several aircraft-like features (personalised entertainment screens, attendant call buttons, reading lights, foot-rest), Humsafar Express is the luxurious version of AC-3 tier train travel. The all-AC 3-tier train service offers new comforts such as soup/coffee vending machine, smoke detectors, fire suppression system, comfortable seats etc. Recently, Indian Railways has also launched the premium UDAY Express double-decker train for business-class travellers. The chair car service is the first train to have an automatic food vending machine!

5. Train 18 – future of train travel in India: Set to roll out in early September, Train 18 will eventually replace Shatabdi Express trains on the Indian Railways network – but with a twist! Train 18 will be Indian Railways’ first self-propelled engine-less train for inter-city travel. Similar to metro trains in terms of the concept of self-propulsion, Train 18 will be an all-AC chair car. The train will have automatic interconnecting doors, onboard WiFi and infotainment, GPS-based passenger information screens, new generation bogie for jerk-free ride, continuous windows for better viewing experience and automatic sliding footsteps on the door! The semi-high speed train will be able to ply at speeds of 160 kmph and is being manufactured at Integral Coach Factory in Chennai. ICF GM Sudhanshu Mani has told Financial Express Online in the past that the cost of manufacturing Train 18 train sets will eventually come to half that of import!

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