Compared: 2-tier vs 3-tier travel experience in the Indian railways

In the end, it’s upto us to ensure that we value the railways as an asset to this country and behave like global citizens, and don’t only expect global service standards.

BHPian vishy76 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

This post sums up my experience of travelling by 2-tier and 3-tier AC in the Indian Railways. I regularly commute from Bombay to Baroda and back, and have experienced 2-tier and 3-tier coaches on a handful of trains. I will list down the trains:

  • Bhavnagar SF (Bandra Terminus – Bhavnagar) No. 12972
  • Golden Temple SF Mail (Amritsar – Mumbai Central) No. 12904
  • Bhagat ki Kothi – Dadar Western SF (Bhagat ki Kothi in RJ – Dadar) No. 20483
  • Jaipur SF (Mumbai Central – Jaipur) No. 12979

3-Tier Coach

I will start with 3-tier coaches and why I ended up canning the idea of using them altogether.

What I liked:

  • Fairly cost effective for the price sensitive traveller who wants to travel in an air conditioned coach
  • Not a huge deal if a majority of your journey is at night and you aren’t awake most of the time
  • Virtually no difference between a side seat on the 3-tier and 2-tier coaches

What I didn’t like:

  • All the best if you have been alloted the top tier and have to sleep. Apart from being cramped, there’s an entire blizzard blowing up there with the AC on full blast.
  • Seating is not comfortable if you are in the 6-seater compartment. Your journey could be so-so or an absolute nightmare depending on what sort of passengers you have for company
  • As classist as this might sound, the lower ticket costs do reflect in the sort of co-passengers you have in most cases

I had been using 3-tier for my travel between Baroda and Bombay for a good 4-5 months. There were very few to no instances where my co-passengers were uncooperative. Most would end up chatting with me and give me good company, while others would go about minding their own business; both of which I appreciate a lot.

Unfortunately, all this changed on the 20th of November 2022. I was to board train no. 12904 from Vadodara. Reached the station before time, the train arrived around 10 minutes late which is the standard generally, and I boarded. I walk up to my seat, only to find around 6 adults + 4 kids in it with no place to sit. My co-passengers were apparently from a rural area up north. They gave me a rather weird look, as if I was in the wrong. My limited experience has told me it’s not wise to be blunt with co-passengers for two reasons:

  • There’s an extremely high if not sureshot chance that you are going to spend your entire journey (in this case close to 6 hours), sitting next to them
  • There’s no real advantage blowing your lid off for someone you only have to tolerate for 5 hours and then forget for the rest of your life

Mercifully, one elderly women did get up and return to her seat. This is when I realised that I was cornered. This was an entire family of 10-15 people travelling together. Two compartments were theirs barring my seat. I couldn’t do anything. I had to tolerate the kids for 6 hours. I have nothing against kids in general, but one was constantly kicking me when he was sleeping (on what he thought) was his seat. The woman sitting bang opposite to me had the audacity to rest her legs on (whatever was left) my seat.

No amount of kind requests would reduce this behaviour. The two tiers on top were occupied already by (wiser) gentleman who had boarded before me and decided to stay away from this frenzy. There were wrappers and food items thrown all around the compartment.

In the end, I genuinely was in doubt whether I had paid for a 3-tier ticket or a general ticket.

I decided to ditch 3-tier for good and switch to 2-tier instead.

2-Tier coaches

My initial switch to 2-tier coaches was quite pleasant. I will list the reasons down:

What I liked:

  • Better comfort when seated. A bench that was occupied by 3 folks previously now only seats 2
  • More headroom on the top tier. There’s only 2 tiers in this coach as the name suggests, which means the top tier need not be as close to the roof as possible to liberate room for the second tier that is present in a 3-tier. This liberates a lot of valuable headroom if you want to sit on top
  • In most cases, you are guaranteed better company since ticket costs are on the higher side

What I didn’t like:

  • Ticket prices are high. For short hops, a 3-tier coach will do just fine
  • Finding tickets at the last moment for 2-tier is tougher, despite the higher ticket costs. This is mainly due to lower seat availability
  • Based on my latest experience, having the TC “set” you up or allot you a seat even if you don’t have a ticket is higher in a 2-tier coach. I have seldom witnessed this on a 3-tier coach
  • My experience travelling in 2-tier coaches has been very good largely from a comfort POV. The seats feel roomier, even a 6-footer can comfortably sit on the top tier upright and work. All in all, I would say its worth it paying the extra and getting the 2-tier ticket.

What hasn’t been good, and applies to most coaches irrespective of 2 or 3-tier is the way in which some passengers behave and the railways allows it. I had a confirmed seat alloted to me on train 12972. Only to have two passengers enter the compartment at Borivali. One had a confirmed ticket, while the other had nothing. He apparently convinced the TC to give him a ticket and paid up around 1200-1300 bucks, a mere 300 more than what I had paid a week in advance for the same seat. I had no qualms with either even then, owing to the fact that I mostly mind my own business and because my seat was unaffected.

However, only an hour later, 3 more folks emerged. They were from a 3-tier or general coach but wanted to have dinner with the gentlemen seated in my compartment. Of course, its obvious who got the shorter end of the stick here. My 1000 rupee ticket was meaningless for a good 1.5 hours where my compartment became a 3 tier effectively. The railways needs to take a strict stand and ensure that passengers who have lawfully paid for a confirmed ticket are not done injustice by people who abuse the system. The guy without the ticket had no remorse for what he had done and even went on to claim that he was confident of getting a seat even without a ticket and hence boarded the train impulsively.

Coming to Bhavnagar SF itself, the IR upgraded the coaches to LHB in around July 2022. When new, the coaches rode flawlessly, didn’t have a single squeak and had no swaying or side to side movement. However, only 5-6 months later, and one can feel the lateral movement at higher speeds and the track changes as well. One can also distinctly feel the a jerk when the train picks up speed or slows down. Quite surprising considering how much the railways has been harping about the Centre Buffer Coupling on these coaches. These might be very safe, but I feel the older/heavier ICF coaches rode far better. The LHBs also aren’t ageing too well. The March 2022 mfg coaches on 12972 feel like they are 5-6 years old, not months.

To sum things up, I am very impressed with the sort of progress IR has made. These criticisms might sound very blunt, but the fact that I still use IR every weekend is testament that these are overshadowed by a lot of improvements made in other areas which have been summed up by vigsom beautifully on not one, but many threads. There’s also the fact that IR in my opinion is the most eco-friendly mode of mass transport even when compared to jetliners.

In the end, it’s upto us to ensure that we value the railways as an asset to this country and behave like global citizens, and don’t only expect global service standards.

Read BHPian comments for more insights and information.

Source: Read Full Article