The wait for Indian Railways’ Economy AC coaches, a new innovation for the common man, has got longer. The production of the new airconditioned AC 3-tier Economy coaches has been hit by the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, Piyush Goyal-led Indian Railways unveiled a new prototype “affordable” AC 3-tier coach with “luxury” features. The new Economy AC 3-tier coach has 83 berths, 11 more than the conventional coach of the same class. Passengers can look forward to aircraft-style personalised AC vents and reading lights, modified ladder for easier climbing to upper berths, USB and personalised mobile charging points, disabled friendly entry/exit doors, divyang-friendly toilet, foot operated taps for better hygiene and fire-proof seats among other improvements.
The prototype of the new coach has been successfully tested by the Research Designs & Standards Organisation (RDSO), attaining speeds of up to 180 kmph during trials. The Rail Coach Factory (RCF), Kapurthala has been given the nod for production of almost 250 Economy AC coaches. However, the production of the first rake has been delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The production targets have temporarily taken a slight hit due to the pandemic. There is shortage of labour, but I am hopeful that we will complete 10 Economy AC coaches this month,” Ravinder Gupta, GM of RCF said.
“The shortage of oxygen at railway vendors’ factories is also a major limitation. Railway production staff are playing an important role in keeping the economy running. The shells for 50 Economy AC coaches are ready and as soon as we are able to resume full-fledged work, production will be back on track,” Gupta added.
Indian Railways aims to replace sleeper coaches in Mail/Express trains with Economy AC 3-tier coaches to reduce travel time. Sleeper class coaches can only attain speeds of up to 110 kmph and with the Golden Quadrilateral and its diagonals being upgraded to 130 kmph speed potential, there is need for faster long-distance passenger trains.
The fares for the Economy AC coaches are expected to be higher than sleeper class but lower than the conventional AC 3-tier. Indian Railways has clarified that sleeper class coaches will continue to ply in trains running at 110 kmph speeds.