Though an exciting journey, there were some observations that I personally made and felt that the Indian Railways could improve their services in these few areas.
1) Should waiting list/unreserved ticket holders be allowed to board trains? This first point is completely personal and it’s a tough call. When one has booked a 2nd AC ticket, it’s for comfort, peace and the cool air. However, with passengers without reserved/waiting list tickets boarding the AC compartments, seat sharing becomes an issue. They fill the compartment making it uncomfortable for reserved ticket passengers. Moreover, those with waiting list tickets tend to fill up the area between the two compartments near the toilet. Hence, going to toilet or to the next compartment also becomes a task.
2) Increase the number of trains between New Delhi and Guwahati: There are just four regular trains (North East Express, Brahmaputra Mail, Dibrugarh Rajdhani and Avad Assam Express)
3) Free food please! If the Dibrugarh Rajdhani can provide meals at a fare rate of Rs 2,225 only in the 3rd AC, why can’t the express mails provide the same for at least 2nd AC when they charge a higher rate of Rs 2,345? On any given day, passengers prefer Rajdhani trains to express mails just because they provide food besides the speed – something the Express/Mail trains can take a cue from.
4) No chilled water. Really! By the time the journey was half complete, somewhere in Lucknow, the attendants selling water bottles brought normal (neither cold nor chilled) water with the excuse that the train had run out of ice. They further told us that we would not be getting any chilled water till Guwahati. For the Indian Railways to run out of ice and cold water, even for sale, is a sure sign of poor service.
5) No unwanted vendors please: Betel nuts, gutkhas, tea, electronics and what not. It’s really irritating when vendors selling products of every kind under the sun come with their more irritating high-pitch voice to disturb your resting or sleep. And all these in the 2nd AC compartment considering you’ve booked it for comfort and convenience. Moreover, frequent opening of doors don’t help either in the cooling of the coach.
6) Eunuchs and beggars in 2AC! This has to be the mother of all jokes or the Indian Railways is not serious about its service. As if unwanted vendors in the compartment are not sufficient to disturb passengers, I was shocked to see eunuchs and beggars in the 2AC compartment for their usual business. I hope I’m not dreaming, I said to myself with a pinch to make sure it was not a dream. While their entry into the AC compartment is as unexpected, irritating and disturbing as it can be, it is also a question mark on the security and safety of passengers, the very reason for having booked AC class tickets.
Travelling in an AC train is a pleasure that every passenger wishes to enjoy and cherish. However, with these ‘unexpected’ events and incidents that I observed, the journey was not comfortable. While resting or sleeping at night or during the day, you are concerned more about some ‘outsider’ coming in, picking up your belongings and walking off than enjoying the journey.
Perhaps, the Railway Ministry can look into the services provided in the trains and help improve it. After all, the Indian Railways is the pride of our country having the biggest network in Asia.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)