INDIA: A fleet of 500 sleeping cars is to be rolled out to refresh Indian Railways’ premium long distance trains during the 2021-22 financial year starting on April 1.

According to the Ministry of Railways, the Tejas Sleepers will offer ‘a paradigm shift in the travel experience’, bringing ‘best in class’ standards. The vehicles are being manufactured at both the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai and the Modern Coach Factory at Raebareli, and the first have been put into service on Northeast Frontier Railway’s premium Rajdhani Express trains linking Agartala with New Delhi’s Anand Vihar Terminal.

The air-conditioned coaches are designed for 200 km/h operation, although as yet few routes are suitable for more than 130 km/h. Confirming on March 7 that tracks on the Golden Quadrilateral and Diagonals linking the main cities would be upgraded for 160 km/h operation, IR also announced that non-air-conditioned stock would not be permitted to run in trains exceeding 130 km/h. At present most Mail & Express services are limited to 110 km/h, with only the premium trains such as the Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto expresses running at higher speeds. Introduction of Tejas Sleepers on these services will displace existing sleeping cars to replace older stock on other routes.

The new fleet will include a mix of First AC, Second AC and 3-Tier AC vehicles. All are built on an austenitic stainless steel underframe to improve crashworthiness and minimise corrosion. The bogies have air spring suspensions to ensure ride quality, and are fitted with condition-monitoring equipment for the wheels and bearings.

As with the stock for the Tejas Express day trains, the coaches are fitted with automatic plug doors controlled centrally by the guard, and a vacuum bio-reactor toilet; the toilet compartments have been redesigned to incorporate touchless fittings in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Fire detection, alarm and suppression systems are fitted throughout the train.

Each coach has a central processor to control the passenger information system, which includes digital displays and automated announcements. The CCTV security cameras have a day/night vision capability, including facial recognition in low-light conditions. The information and security systems are connected to a train supervisor’s facility in the generator car, along with a two-way communications link so that passengers are able to contact the crew in the event of a medical or other emergency.

The passenger compartments are decorated with textured vinyl film, while an improved polyurethane foam is used for the seat cushions and sleeper berths. The window curtains are replaced by roller blinds to facilitate easy sanitising. Each compartment is fitted with mobile charging points for each passenger, along with a reading light for every berth. Access to the upper berths has also been improved.