Not even a week since they rolled out, the novel Duronto trains have already caused a furore among passengers.
In the ‘faster-than-Rajdhani’ Duronto trains, Rail Minister Mamata Banerjee has brought back the failed concept of the third side-berth — hated by its users in other trains.
The two coaches of the new “AC Economy” class created for this train thus have more passengers crammed inside, jostling for a little space.
The third side berth comes in the ridiculously meagre space between the side-upper and the side-lower berths. It easily kills the headroom for the two upper and the lower berths apart from cramming the seating space for everyone.
The discomfort would have probably been compensated with cheaper fare.
But unfortunately, this “Economy” class is only Rs 55 cheaper than the normal AC-III tier — which is devoid of the third-berth.
“Why should we endure so much discomfort for so little price difference?” said Pradeep Mondal, a passenger on board the first Duronto out of Delhi on Monday. “One feels suffocated in here.”
Most passengers HT spoke to on board the Economy class on Monday’s Sealdah-bound Duronto voiced the same grouse.
“I had once experienced this discomfort on a Sampark Kranti train. It was horrible. Who would have thought that this elite train too would offer the same blunder?” asked Falguni Adhikary, a housewife.
This doomed concept was started by Banerjee’s predecessor Lalu Prasad on an overdrive to play the ‘volumes game’ and maximise profits.
The Garib Rath trains, which offer air-conditioned travel at superfast speed (not faster than Rajdhani; meals excluded) started with these third side-berths.
But in this train, the fare is equal to that of non-AC Sleeper class — just about Rs 600 between Mumbai and Delhi.
It was replicated in several other trains, and also in non-AC Sleeper class, but was eventually discontinued due to severely negative feedback from passengers.
In Delhi division alone, the third side-birth has been detached from 200 coaches. But Railways is not willing to concede the blunder.
“It is the Economy class, so the number of berths is more to accommodate the maximum people,” Indian Railways spokesman Anil Saxena told Hindustan Times. He said that the concept was a hit in the Garib Rath trains. “We have not had complaints from Garib Raths. Plus, the newly built coaches have better spacing.”