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My experience travelling by AC chair car in the Indian Railways

In an era of cost cutting and quality compromises in the auto sector, the overengineered and robust railway hardware gave me a weird satisfaction.

BHPian shrinz.vivek recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

I have never been a fan of train travel mainly for 2 reasons

  1. My childhood train travel memories are filled with dirty sleeper coaches and ticketless travelers storming the compartment at midnight
  2. My dad is an enthusiastic driver ever since he was a boy and always preferred driving over any other form of travel

I too preferred to ride/drive everywhere until corporate travel introduced me to air travel; more to save time than for comfort.

I hated air travel since day one owing to the annoying security checks, long waiting times, cramped economy class seats and scary turbulence.

3 weeks of recent back-to-back travels to Delhi took a toll on my back and neck and sent me straight to the physiotherapist. (Thanks to the Dzire CNG replacing all Etios diesel taxis)

The long-term solution was as below: (I am quoting the doctor)

  1. Do not sit in any other car other than an Innova (I am 6ft tall)
  2. Avoid road travel
  3. Do not sit for more than 30 minutes at a stretch.

So now began my workaround plan for my upcoming Chennai trip

With road travel out of question, the next option was by air. However due to the unique positioning of Chennai and Bengaluru airport relative to Bangalore city; all 3 modes of transport take approximately the same time (5~6hrs). With no significant savings in time, I felt its not worth tolerating the annoyance of air travel.

So last option was the train. I started googling and found that we have three classes of travel which try to mimic the business class model of flights in trains. The timings were super convenient, and I went ahead and booked whatever was available. And oh boy!! I was pleasantly surprised and super happy with the over all experience. This inspired me to write this essay. Please bear with me; ill try to be as concise as possible and focus only on things which caught my eye.

I’ll divide this essay into three parts:

  • Introduction to the three business classes.
  • The food service.
  • Some attention to detail which made me grin and smile.

Introduction to the three business classes.

(I could not get this ticket as it was sold out. But I managed to spend some time in it during the journey just out of curiosity)

  • This is the most expensive coach. It comes in 2+2 configuration with individual TV screens; none of which were working. This was the only disappointment of the whole journey.
  • The seats were extremely plush and comfortable as you can see in the below image.
  • The major drawback here was the common arm rest in the middle.

Executive chair car: (EC)

  • I travelled in this class from Bengaluru to Chennai.
  • This is the second best coach. Seats are 2+2 here too but not as soft as EA. But it was a blessing in disguise for my fragile back.
  • Most of my observations are from this coach.

AC Chair car: (ACC)

  • I travelled in this during my return journey to Bengaluru.
  • This is the least luxurious in 3+2 seat configuration and accommodates more passengers/compartment and hence feels crowded. But still I felt it to be much better than cramped economy class air seats.

All three classes have more than required legroom, super comfortable air conditioning, good food and clean toilets. More on these later.

The food service.

The menu is the same for EA and EC. ACC gets a toned-down version. Quality and quantity are not compromised. Before I got to see the menu, I enquired with the attendant about the differences, and he told this “EA gets almonds and ACC gets groundnuts. EA gets 3 pcs of chicken in the biriyani and ACC gets two.”

Interesting “chai samagri” pack

I came across soup sticks for the first time. I tried it with butter and did not like it. Tried it raw and did not like it. Dunked it soup and finally gave up.

Some attention to detail which made me grin and smile.

The toilets were clean across all classes and had things like soap and toilet seat covers.

The spotless mirrors prove that someone is cleaning then regularly

Timetable is displayed prominently. There is another CHN-BLR Shatabdi apart from this.

There is a Khobeya board listing a lot of info. This particularly appeals to the Japanese in me. Note the AC temperature standard and duties of the attendant

Some more information on a wall. 10 years in a Japanese OEM has made me appreciate the concept of getting information without asking anyone. The fact that it is up to date is remarkable.

Leg room is a long as a half-litre water bottle. I was very tempted to take out my measuring tape and measure it but did not want to look like a Pakistani spy trying to replicate Indian Railways in Pakistan.

Cute coat hooks were everywhere. I hung my coat and used the remaining to route my laptop charger. It was interesting to see that there is no paint peel off even in the hook track. It is the railways over spec paint quality or am I missing something here?

Sun blinds can be opened, closed, or stopped midway to function as a sun visor.

Mopping and cleaning happen on a regular basis even during the journey.

Independent seat back trays are extremely strong and robust. It felt like it was diecast and not injection moulded. The backrest tilt of the front seat does not alter the tray level.

Adjustable leg rest. Sadly, it does not fold all the way up.

Smiling and friendly male attendants. Not as glamorous as their female air counterparts.

Independent arm rests are a nice touch. Not available in EA or ACC coach

Calling bell only in the EA coach. I did not use it. I preferred to walk to the pantry if I needed anything. That way I could avoid sitting continuously for more than 30 mins.

What can I say for this?

Summary:

In an era of cost cutting and quality compromises in the auto sector, the overengineered and robust railway hardware gave me a weird satisfaction.

My ticket told me that “IR recovers only 57% of cost of travel on an average”. As an honest taxpayer I am not complaining, because I am happy that my money is being used to provide business class experience to the common man.

Read BHPian comments for more insights and information.




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