RANCHI-RAJDHANI PASSENGER EXPRESS, DELHI TO RANCHI, JHARKHAND, INDIA.
A Farbound.Net Review
The Rajdhani, from time to time, has been criticized on numerous grounds. Disgruntled passengers have condemned it of being outdated and ill fitted, crucified it on maintenance and unbecoming behaviour, yet gone back to it every time a long distant journey beckoned and the express was headed that way. The simple fact being, there exists no other long distance train service with a better record of getting you to your destination on scheduled time, safely, and as comfortably as possible – unless one considers later entrants like the Shatabdi and the Duronto.
To be fair to passengers who have voiced strong opinions, every now and then, the Rajdhani is definitely no stranger to blunders. Its large windows never spotlessly clean and its staff sometimes lazy. The railway, on its part, has weighed serious complaints with sincerity and taken quick action on most occasions. Just as it has continued to fine tune services and add in new facilities to keep up the popularity. Many of the upgrades long overdue, have left the express trailing behind its counterparts in more developed parts of the world. However, in India, the Rajdhani is a legend.
RANCHI RAJDHANI TIMETABLE
1. Departure Point, Delhi: New Delhi Railway Station.
2. Departure Point, Ranchi: Ranchi Junction.
3. Departure Time, Delhi: 4: 00 p.m.
4. Departure Day, Delhi: Wednesday, Saturday.
5. Departure Day, Ranchi: Sunday, Tuesday.
6. Total Travel Time: 19 hours.
7. Total Distance: 1337 Kms.
8. Meals served: Veg and Non veg.
9. Meal types: Tea, Breakfast, Dinner, Special, Snacks.
10. Complaints, Twitter: @railminindia; @surashprabhu.
11. Helpline (24×7): 011-39340000.
On Indian tracks, the Rajdhani passenger express has been a forerunner of change.
When the first one made its debut run in 1969, it established an era of super fast trains in the country, acquainting wayfarers accustomed to lengthy hours of train travel and delays, with speed and comfort (see Farbound.Net snippet: The first of the super fasts). Not too long ago, the train service ushered in another revolution by being the first to integrate air conditioning in all its coaches, followed shortly by adding in Wi-Fi compatibility.
The Northern Railways, a division of the Indian Railways, manages four of these super fasts. Among them the NDLS RNC RJDHNI and the RNC NDLS RAJ EXP are two of the long distance runners that connect the capital cities of Delhi and Ranchi via the town of Daltongang in Jharkhand. Both fully air conditioned and Wi-Fi compatible (see Farbound.Net snippet: Twins in motion).
If you are headed for Ranchi, Jharkhand or one of the few stations the trains stop by for a very brief interval, these two have a greater chance of getting you to your destination in an eighteen hour journey, unless you like it stretched to somewhere close to twenty or perhaps more, by taking the local express. Recently, the trains also replaced their aging boogies with new German designed LBH coaches in-built with advanced safety features and an early fire warning system. Still, a reality check helps not getting disappointed when stepping onboard.
The Rajdhani express does not provide 7-star hospitality for any of its segmented classes. But there are good chances you won’t be stepping out complaining either.
The AC 3 tier coaches make up the general class and is the most crowded. A single coach houses round 72 passengers on board. The backrest (visible in the photo) when fitted into place serves as the middle berth in the six berth compartment. Wall sockets present just below the top berth lets passengers plug in their laptops or recharge mobiles.
The Rajdhani does not pretend to be a luxury train and neither is it one by a long shot. Inside, there are no wall mounted television sets, separate bar service or impeccably groomed waiters in crisp white shirts and gloves serving cognac and brandy. These trains are only excellent long distance passenger transports. Even a smaller number come with dining cars, and both seating and sleeping arrangements on the same train. The Ranchi-Rajdhani only provide sleeping berths, no matter which tier-class you choose to travel in.
On every Rajdhani train, including the Ranchi-Rajdhani, coaches are segregated in three categories: The Ac 1 tier, the Ac 2 tier and the economical Ac 3 tier. Traditionally, the Ac 1 tier has been considered as a privileged class and continues to do so. At a slightly higher price, the Ac 1 tier provides more privacy and personal space to travelers – you don’t get to travel on board with a crowd of strangers you’ve never met, trip over suitcases in the aisle at night and impatiently wait in queue for fellow passengers to vacate the toilet.
The Ac 2 tier is next in line but with more room for passengers. There are 4 berths on one side of the aisle and double berths on the other. Reserve seats in this class, if you are a family or group of four looking forward to spending some quality travel time. It’s a little less expensive than the Ac 1 tier.
The Ac 3 tier is the general class and the most crowded of the lot. Inside you are likely to meet families with screaming kids, businessmen, college students and everyone else lucky to find a place on board.
A single coach of the Ac 3 tier houses somewhere close to seventy two people in its six berth compartments on one side of the aisle and double berths on the other. Curtains that once offered a screen from passers by are no longer available in any of the three classes. None the less, the Ac 3 tier can still be desirable. Step onboard the Ac-3 tier, on a hot summer day, and the first thing that greets you is the pleasant coolness of an air conditioned interior. The Ranchi-Rajdhani doesn’t wait for the journey to begin to turn on the air conditioner, it does so before it rolls into station to pick you up.
The air conditioning can make you prefer a blanket or bed sheet minutes after the train embarks on its journey. Though on occasions the air conditioners can stop functioning due to technical malfunctions and make the interior warm, especially if you are travelling in summers.
All coaches of the Ranchi-Rajdhani are Wi-Fi compatible. Letting you browse the internet on a laptop or mobile. Wall sockets located close to the top berths let you recharge the batteries or stay plugged in.
None of the top berths offer a window view and to climb into one passenger need to use iron loops present on the outward side of the lower bunks. Every berth is provided with extra pair of clean bed sheets, a small pillow and a dry cleaned blanket. The bunks in the six berth compartments are longer and wider than the ones in the double berth side.
The drawback is, you’ll need a laptop with a good battery life to get you through the journey. There are only two wall sockets present in the six berth compartment and none in the double berths. Chances are, even for a mobile recharge, you’ll have to wait it out in queue to plug in. The double berths are good for couples or pairs traveling together. You can use the berth below as seats or combine them as a bed to stretch your legs out and gaze at the scenery with your elbow resting on the ledge of a large window as the train speeds by.
On the flip side, the double berths are narrower in width and the ones on top have no windows. None of the top berths do. To climb into one, you’ll need to use the railing rings on the sides. Also if you stretch to over six feet, you will have to fold your legs in. Choose the 6 berth compartment and the bed will definitely be able to accommodate your full height but you’ll be sitting with six, possibly more strangers, if your fellow passengers are occupants with bawling kids geared up to keep you awake all night.
The middle berth makes for a cushy backrest when not used as a bed. Fit it into place and there is little headroom for passengers sitting below. In any case, you will not able to hit dreamland before desserts are served. Every berth is provided with clean and extra pair of bed sheets, a single blanket and a pillow.
The courteous and polite service, a hallmark of the express, has always been extended to every passenger regardless of which coach they were on. Opinionated views aside. And like passengers who have come to favour the Ranchi-Rajdhani for long distances, railway personnel take it as a matter of pride to be serving on board one.
Sudhir, a native of Bihar, is one of the attendants on board the Ranchi-Rajdhani. From handing out water bottles to serving meals attendants like him take care of all passenger needs on board. The train also keeps a house keeping staff onboard for periodically cleaning the interiors. Passengers can even request them to clean accidental spills. Staff gets shuffled periodically or on their own request.
Dressed in a combination of black and white attires, (sometimes maroon shirts below striped sleeveless jackets) attendants serve meals as per the prescribed time table, housekeeping frequently cleans up spills and mess left behind by careless passengers – you can even call one up and request for a spot to cleaned – and in the end ask for a tip which you may or may not oblige to dispense with. To get onboard the train, or for that matter any other Rajdhani on any other route, you need to book way in advance. Seats fill up quickly on these trains and the express service does not tolerate last minute walk ins.
Neither does it take kindly to stowaways who negotiate their passage when apprehended. Travelers who do not make reservations in advance are disembarked at the nearest station sometimes with a warning and sometimes with a fine.
For reservation. Visit any travel or booking agent or log into the IRCTC site and fill up the form there.
The confirmation receipt you get is the ticket – which will have to be display in print or on your mobile along with the necessary identification papers. This receipt contains all necessary information regarding your journey: train name and number, the coach you are traveling in, estimated time of travel, necessary identification papers to bring along for verification, along with your departure point and destination.
What the receipt does not mention is the railway platform the train arrives or departs from – for this, you’ll have to inquire on your own at the railway station or hire a luggage bearer (coolie) to guide you there.
The Indian railways till date have never given much of a thought about where to put the hand baggage. Leading passengers to normally stash their belongings underneath the berths, locked and chained.
The double berth compartments are present on the left of the aisle while the 6 berth compartments to the right. During the night, the aisle in the center can be like an obstacle course with blankets, baggage and personal belongings scattered on the floor or chained to the berths. Passengers with extra baggage use up any available space.
Those who carry more dump it in the narrow aisle, in front of their seats or on their allotted bunks. Walk on the this aisle at night, and there are chances of tripping over suitcases, duffel bags, packed boxes, bedding rolls, and back packs protruding out from beneath the berths. Sit by the window side of a 6 berth compartment and you just might end up starting at a mountain of luggage right next to you.
The aisle in the 3 tier is also a busy thoroughfare with passengers passing through from other compartments and the railway staff carrying containers and other essentials. Only after lights-out, is it relatively empty. In the Ac 2 and Ac 3 tier, it is also not uncommon to come across luggage chained to berths for extra security.
There have been incidents of missing luggage in Indian trains and passengers who don’t like taking chances keep their baggage protected this way. None of the trains supply you with the items, so you’ll need to buy them at the railway station or bring them along with you.
The meals served on board are not cooked by the Indian railways. Private caterers are hired for the job. The menu on the tray, underneath the dishes, usually come with their identity in bold letters.
Appetizers, snacks and meals are served in succession on board Rajdhani express trains. In the photo is a non vegetarian dinner tray served on board the Ranchi-Rajdhani. Desserts usually include vanilla ice cream. Meals are served to passengers who board the train from later stations as per the timing. Passengers who see the meals as unhygienic are at liberty to bring along their own home cooked food.
Meals on the Rajdhani are included in the price of a ticket. The menu is limited and prefixed. Items do change from time to time but always offer a choice in vegetarian and non vegetarian options. Sometimes, the train includes a special dish in its menu, which is charged separately and served between the appetizer and dinner.
Factory sealed water bottles, are handed out as the train departs and within an hour or so of boarding comes a small tray with tea and light snacks, followed shortly by soup, bread sticks and butter, then dinner and finally desserts – usually Vanilla ice cream. Early the next day the attendant serves tea with biscuits followed by breakfast. For dinner and breakfast, you get to choose between non vegetarian and vegetarian items. The non vegetarian menu predominantly includes chicken and eggs.
Some passengers may find the meals too spicy or completely unpalatable. Also in 2012, The Telegraph published an article citing several passengers who complained of food poisoning on board the Ranchi-Rajdhani: 12440 (see the Telegraph article: 30 ill after Rajdhani food). Though the incident was an isolated one, passengers hesitant about the meals served onboard are at liberty to bring along their own home cooked food or special travel meals.
Alcoholic beverages along with cigarettes are prohibited. Though you can still have a smoke in the area in-between the compartments (where the toilets are) or at one of the stations, the train stops by for a short time. Soft drinks are not served but you can bring them on board with you, like your own meals.
Toilets present within the AC 3 tier coaches are always in a mess. As the journey progresses, use by passengers leaves them even more filthy and unhygienic. Recently, the management introduced a western style commode facility along with the Indian squat type.
The toilets can be a problem if you are not used to the Indian squat type, and with passengers walking in and out, the steel floors are always wet and filthy. That aside, with the train moving at high speed and the compartments swaying with the rhythm, sometimes violently, using them requires a bit of the old balancing act. The toilets can be occupied by passengers for long duration. If you are in a hurry, try the ones present in the other coaches. Early morning or after lights-out is the best time to use them.
Each coach has two toilets facing each other and a single wash basin outside. Some parents encourage children to relieve themselves in the bay area outside the toilets. This is a punishable offense as is spitting or soiling any other area of the train, including opening the doors and urinating. Sign boards pasted on the walls of the toilets request you not to use them when the train is at a station.
Why choose the Rajdhani Ac 3 tier.
The Ac 3 tier on board the Rajdhani might not be the ideal coach for a long distance journey if you don’t like spending eighteen long hours with a crowd of people or rather enjoy the amenities of a luxury train more. None the less for the price of an economical ticket what the Rajdhani offers you in terms of services and hospitality is something you won’t be complaining about much after travelling in a local train. Importantly, you will get to reach your destination on time, barring aside unexpected stops.