Trains running at a speed of 130 kilometres per hour on identified routes above on the railway network will soon have only air-conditioned coaches.
Railway ministry spokesperson D J Narain on Sunday said that the non-AC sleeper coaches would be replaced by AC coaches only for "such trains which will be running at 130/160 kmph" as part of the Railways' plans to upgrade the network. He also said that the ticket prices for such trains would be "affordable", news agency PTI reported.
However, non-AC coaches will continue to run in trains running at 110 kmph, Narain said.
Premium trains like Rajdhanis, Shatabdis and Durontos are allowed to operate at 120 kmph on significant parts of the Golden Quadrilateral and Diagonals. The rakes for such trains are fit to operate at 130 kph or above, officials were quoted as saying by PTI.
Tracks on the Golden Quadrilateral and Diagonals are being upgraded to cater to speeds of 130 kmph to 160 kmph.
"AC coaches have become a technical necessity wherever the speed of the train is going to be above 130 kmph. Indian Railways is working on a massive plan to upgrade the railway network to high speed potential," Narain said.
The railway official also said that "it will be ensured that while the price of tickets of modified AC coaches remains very affordable for the passengers, the comfort and conveniences increase manifold and there is substantial reduction in travel time".
He said that a prototype of such an AC coach is being manufactured at Rail Coach Factory at Kapurthala and should be ready in a few weeks.
Officials said that the new AC coaches will be economical as their tickets will be priced between AC 3 and Sleeper coaches.
Compared to 72 berths in a sleeper coach, this new AC coach will have 83 berths, but the number of berths in a coupe will remain the same. However, there will be no extra middle berth between side-upper and side-lower berths.
The coaches are being re-designed by moving the electrical units and removing the space reserved for storing blankets and bed sheets, since Railways will stop providing them due to coronavirus.