Railways is expected to introduce ‘second air-condition’ (AC) coaches in suburban local with a view to attract more passengers towards AC trains. Expected to intake more passengers than a regular coach, railway officials have, however, raised red flags, claiming the additional number of passengers may exceed coach’s weight-bearing capacity. To induce AC travel that has coaches with automatic door closure, the Railway Board approved reserving six coaches in a suburban local train as AC. Presently, the single AC local train takes twelve trips on the Western Railway, which does not benefit a large share of passengers due to its infrequency.
“There are going to be two different types of coaches — first AC and second AC. According to preliminary details, the plan is to introduce different seating arrangement in these AC coaches. First AC will have more seating capacity than the second. The first AC will see lateral seating arrangement, which is similar to the existing seating configuration in local trains and the second AC will have longitudinal seating,” said Sanjay Singh,spokesperson, Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC). “A second AC coach, with its specific type of seating, can accommodate more passengers, who will stand inside the coach. As first AC will charge more, passengers can comfortably sit and enjoy their journey. While passengers will stand and travel in second AC, more passengers can avail the AC travel. If this idea is accepted, we plan to make 50 per cent of the coaches as second AC and the rest as first AC,” a railway official said.
The passenger capacity of a suburban coach is 500 passengers, which allows for a seating capacity of 100 commuters. While first AC is expected to intake 500 commuters, senior railway officials estimate that the second AC can take an additional 200 passengers, making the total to 700 commuters. A senior railway official, however, said , “A metro-type seating may not work in a suburban local, where commuters spend more time traveling. Travelling, while having to stand for a longer time, may offer no good to commuters. Also, the maximum load a coach can take is 80 tonnes. If more passengers travel inside the second AC type of seating, it can increase the total weight of the coach to above 80 tonnes. In such cases, the coach may derail or fail to ply,” a railway official added.
The Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, with the Research Design and Standards Organization (RDSO) team, are working on the technical and electrical specifications of the AC coaches. “They will also deliberate upon how second AC could be made more seamless and adjusting to the system,” a railway official said. Reserving the coach reserved for vendors into AC is also being thought upon as the smell of the foodstuff they carry (if perishable) could spread in a train that will see a centralised AC system.
Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal had earlier spoken of introducing second AC coaches in suburban local trains to induce AC travelling. In one of his public speeches, while introducing passenger amenities in Mumbai, he had announced that each of the first and second AC coaches will see specific compartments for women.