A journey in the country’s first air-conditioned double decker train may not be as smooth as expected. Lack of enough legroom and low luggage racks will force tall passengers to sit crouched in their seats. The boarding is like on any other train. Then, a flight of stairs takes the passenger to the lower floor, which is partly under the platform level. Another flight of steps takes passengers to the upper floor.
Metro spent 10 minutes on the train before it left for Dhanbad on a trial run on Wednesday afternoon. “It would indeed be uncomfortable for someone in the window seat to sit through a long journey,” admitted a railway official who was on the train during the trial run. The inner walls of the train have an inward slope near the floor because of which passengers have to sit cross-legged. The height of the luggage racks, at a little over 5ft, is another problem. Most passengers would bang their heads against the racks while getting up. “Each coach will carry 128 passengers,” said divisional railway manager, Howrah, Partha Sarathi Mondal. The seating capacity of a double-decker coach is about 40 per cent more than that of a Shatabdi (78-seater) coach.
Asked whether numbers mattered more than the comfort, Mondal said: “You have to make some compromises.” The compromise might be a little too uncomfortable for passengers. The train has another flaw — its walls graze against the edge of some of the platforms. Railway officials had to chip off a little over an inch of platforms at several stations to ensure a smooth ride. “We had noticed during the earlier trial runs that the train is grazing against the platforms at Liluah, Bally, Durgapur and Seoraphuli stations,” said Mondal. He put the blame on the platforms: “There is no problem with the train. The platforms at some stations are broader than what they should have been.” Almost half of the lower floors is below the platform level to ensure the train’s height does not pose a problem for the overhead wires or overbridges.
The Howrah-Dhanbad train is likely to begin its commercial run in a month, officials said. A few more trial runs will be conducted before a report is sent to the safety commissioner. The Howrah-Dhanbad Black Diamond Express earlier had a double-decker coach. But the entire train was neither two-storeyed nor air-conditioned. The double-decker coach was scrapped in 1997. The best feature of the new train could be its toilets. “They are like those in aeroplanes. The faeces and urine will no longer be dumped on tracks,” said an official.