Three small steps and one giant leap. Negotiating the upper berth on Indian Railways means that for most travellers. Finally, the Railways is ready to lend a hand.
Engineers at the Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala, and Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, where the Linke Hofman Busch (LHB) coaches are manufactured, are poring over designs and prototypes of numerous possible “ladders” to pick the one that will, hopefully, permanently ease the problem of climbing up to, or coming down from, the upper berth.
In an exercise carried out by the Railways a few months ago to get feedback from passengers on its services, the ladder design had emerged as the source of many woes. It was then included in the “to-do” list for 2015-16.
“We are trying out various designs of ladders. We have already arrived at one for AC First Class. For AC-II and III classes, work is on,” Railway Board Member (Mechanical) Hemant Kumar said.
The Railways has roped in the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, to help ensure that any engineering solution also looks good aesthetically.
Currently, the iron frame holding the three steps is fitted to the side of a rail cabin. A passenger wanting to get to the upper berth needs to do a balancing act and, when at the top, invariably grope for something to grab in order to haul himself up. Agility and practice count, which not many passengers come equipped with, the Railways has realised.
The new design will provide passengers a better foothold, as well as a handle somewhere near the upper berth.
The cost involved is said to be around Rs 20,000 per coach — which is negligible given the scale of the Railways’ operations.
Meanwhile, should you travel by AC First Class, don’t be surprised if a staircase greets you inside the coach. A few AC First Class coaches have already been fitted with this new design of ladder, and feedback is being gathered on its utility.
It’s still three steps up — but one big step-up.