Different categories and types of coaches in the Indian railways
Indian railways is a very common means of transport and a large section of the population travels around the year by it. It caters to all the section of populations right from the very rich to the middle class to poor. Passengers have an option to travel in different types of coaches (AC and non AC) in the trains as per their budget and comfort level. This article throws light on different categories coaches present in the Indian railways.
Introduction When people want to travel by train they have to decide as to what is their budget for the ticket cost and accordingly think in which type of coach they want to book their tickets. Well, the cost is not only the factor in deciding this. There are other aspects as well, like comfort, weather, journey duration etc which needs to be considered for taking a decision. Broadly coaches in a train fall under two categories – AC and non AC. When we talk of AC coaches they are always reserved coaches which means you cannot board them without the reservation. On the other hand non AC coaches have unreserved category also in which passengers can board without reservation and they get the seat on first come first serve basis. AC and non AC coaches have several subcategories under them.
So let us try to get an idea of types of coaches available in trains, how are they different and what are their main features.
Non AC coach categories Below are the types of non AC coaches present in Indian railways.
- General coach (2S) - The Indian Railway code for this type of coach is 2S. As the name suggests, general coaches do not require any prior reservation to be done. You can straight away go to the railway station, buy the ticket from the counter and board the train. But here the seats are occupied on the first come first serve basis and if the coach is already crowded you may not find a seat and face difficulties. General coaches have the lowest fare among all and they are normally used by the poor people for travel. Apart from this, they are also used by people who suddenly have to travel and they do not have any reservation. They cannot board the reserved coaches and hence the only option left for them is to travel in a General coach. Sometimes if people want to travel a short distance then also they tend to use a General coach. General coach is a Two-Tier coach meaning that in each compartment there are 4 berths, 2 each on the opposite sides. They also have side lower and upper berths on the other side. In some trains, seats of general coaches are made of wood but nowadays cushioned seats are there even in a general coach. Normally every train will have at least 3 to 4 general coaches which are used by the passengers without reservation. Nowadays condition of the general coaches is very bad, dirty and they are highly crowded. Hence the middle-class people hesitate to board the general coaches due to these problems. Journey in a General coach is a least comfortable journey.
- Sleeper coach (SL) - Railway code for this type of coach is SL. This is a non AC reserved coach and you need a reservation to board this coach. People without a reserved ticket should not normally board this coach. It is a 3 Tier coach meaning that there are 6 berths in each compartment, 3 each on opposite sides and 2 side berths on the other side. There are total 72 seats in this coach. This coach is comfortable compared to a general coach as there are less number of passengers inside compared to a general coach. Since here people reserve the seats they can also sleep in their berths. Earlier mobile charging points were not provided in each compartment of a sleeper class coach but nowadays it is there. But over the time the condition of the sleeper coaches has also deteriorated and they have become equivalent to a general coach in some trains. Since it is difficult to get a place in general coaches for the people they start boarding the Sleeper class coaches which results in overcrowding in the coach and the genuine passengers with reserved berths face difficulties. Sleeper class and general coaches are non AC. Hence they may not be suitable for travel during summers as they get extremely hot. But still, people who cannot afford AC coaches travel in the sleeper class coaches even during the summer. If you are traveling in a Sleeper coach than bed rolls are not provided normally and you need to carry your own bed sheet, blankets etc if it is an overnight journey. But nowadays we have an option of buying the bedrolls from IRCTC after paying some amount. Majority of coaches in a train are Sleeper class coaches. Normally a long distance train has at least 9 to 10 Sleeper coaches. Sleeper class coaches are named as S1,S2,S3 etc.
- First Class coach (FC) - Indian railway code for this coach is FC. These coaches were more popular earlier when the AC coaches were not so prevalent. But slowly they are getting obsolete and nowadays it is very rare to see the trains having a first-class coach. This is the most high-end coach in the non AC category. All the compartments have closed cabins and there are no side berths. Inside the closed compartment, there are 4 berths,2 each on the opposite side. There are some cabins which have just 2 berths, one below and one above. Outside the closed compartments, there is a Gallery. Even being non AC, it's fare is too high compared to the sleeper class coaches. In the earlier days, people from the well to do families traveled in these first-class coaches. Nowadays also wherever present their fare is comparable to the AC coaches. Just like the sleeper coaches bedrolls are not provided and you need to carry your own if you require. But as said earlier you also have an option to buy it from IRCTC. First class coaches are named as FC1, FC2 etc.
- Non AC Chair Car (2S) - The Indian railway code for this type of coach is 2S. These type of coaches are generally found in short distance train which did not involve an overnight journey. Here there are no compartments and seating arrangement is more like that of a bus. There are 3 seater seats one after the other and the coach seems to be more open as there are no compartments. Normally Intercity trains will have many coaches of this type. In a train, these coaches are named as D1, D2 etc. But this is not hard and fast and some other naming convention can also be followed.
AC coach categories Below are the types of AC coaches present in Indian railways.
- Third AC coach (3AC) - The Indian railway code for 3rd AC coaches is 3AC. We can say that the 3rd AC coaches are similar to the sleeper class coaches and the only difference is that they are air-conditioned and some elements of comforts are added to it. Just like the sleeper coaches there are 6 births in the compartment with 3 berths each on the opposite side and a side lower and side upper berth on the other side. Unlike the sleeper class coaches, they have 64 berths as more space is left at both ends of the coach near the doors. One of the major difference from the sleeper class coaches is that here the windows are sealed with black tinted glass so that the coach is not exposed to outside atmosphere and the air conditioning inside the coach is maintained. So we can say that these coaches are much comfortable as compared to the sleeper class since they are air-conditioned and are ideal for travel during the summers. Earlier there used to be curtains in each compartment including the side berths but later it was discontinued as the curtains caused a fire hazard. Fares for this category of the coach is much higher compared to the sleeper class but comfort wise it is anytime better than the sleeper class coaches. They are less crowded compared to the sleeper class coaches as people without reservations are strictly not allowed inside the AC coaches. In the sleeper class coaches, they do manage to enter and travel sometimes. One of the other comfort factor in 3rd AC coaches that bedrolls are provided and you do not have to pay extra for it. Every coach will have one attendant who takes care of the coach. 3rd AC coach will have more mobile / laptop charging points compared to the sleeper class coaches. In any train 3rd AC coaches are named as B1, B2, B3 etc.
- Second AC coach (2AC) - Indian railway code for the second AC coaches is 2AC. Just like the third AC coach second AC coaches are also fully air-conditioned with sealed tinted Windows. The major difference from the 3rd AC coach is that here the number of births are less. A second AC coach has 42 berths compared to 64 for the third AC coach. Here each compartment has only 4 berths 2 births each on the opposite side and side berths on the other side. In terms of comfort 2nd AC coach scores above the third AC coach. This is because as the number of berths are less there will be fewer people traveling inside the coach and it will be less cramped. Also since there are only two births on each side of the compartment and there is no middle berth people find it less cramped. They can easily sit, sleep and get up as there is no middle berth. Otherwise, if there is middle berth and if passengers open it for sleeping, it creates problems for the lower berth passengers who want to sit. So this kind of problem is not there in 2nd AC coaches. Also in contrast to 3rd AC coaches, 2nd AC coaches have a dedicated night lamp type of light in each of the berths which can be used by the passengers for reading etc. Also, 2nd AC coaches have curtains in all the compartments including the side one which gives an element of privacy. But the fare of 2nd AC coach is higher compared to the third AC coach. It is seen that sometimes the fare of 2nd AC coach is nearly equivalent to flight fares. Since second AC coaches are more premium they are less in numbers compared to the 3rd AC coaches. A train can normally have 1 to 2 second AC coaches. In any train 2nd, AC coaches are named as A1, A2 etc.
- First AC coach(1AC) - The Indian railway code for this type of coach is 1AC. This is the costliest coach in Indian railway and its fare is somewhat similar to flight fare. The comfort factor is also the highest in this coach. Only rich people normally can afford to travel in this coach. Hence comparatively rush is less in this coach compared to other AC coaches. But all the trains do not have First AC coaches. They are only provided in some trains. Its layout is similar to non AC first class coach but it is more lavish and comfortable. Each compartment is a closed cabin. Inside the compartment, there are just 4 berths, 2 each on the opposite side. There are some cabins which have just 2 berths, one below and one above. There are no side upper and lower berths in this coach and outside the cabins, a gallery is there. In a train, AC chair car coaches are named as H1 H2 etc.
- AC Chair Car coach (CC) - The Indian railway code for this type of coach is CC. This coach is normally found in short distance trains which do not involve an overnight journey. Many Intercity trains have these coaches. Seats inside the AC chair car coaches are widely different from those of sleeper and AC coaches. It does not have closed compartment and there is no concept of middle and upper berths here. Seat arrangement in this coach is more like the seats of the bus. They have 3 seater seats, one after the other. Since there are no compartments, this type of coach seems to be open from the top. The fare is less than the third AC coach. A short distance train may have 3 to 4 AC chair car coaches. In a train, AC chair car coaches are named as C1 C2 etc.
ConclusionSo we see that Indian railways provide us with a wide choice in terms of class of travel. We can pick and choose among different types of coaches based on our preferences and budget. It is observed that nowadays more and more people prefer to travel in AC coaches compared to earlier days as they are more comfortable and income level of people has also risen. This makes AC coaches a preferred choice for many people. But since AC coaches in a train are far less compared to the sleeper class coaches, getting confirmed reservation in AC coaches can be a challenge especially in summer months. But the popularity of sleeper class coaches has not deteriorated and they still run full. Among AC coaches 3rd AC is the hot favorite as it is least priced among the sleeper category of AC coaches. Otherwise, AC chair car is the cheapest option but it is meant only for sitting.