What is the new rule on Sleeper Accommodation on Trains?

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The Indian Railways has recently issued a circular amending para 652 of chapter 6 of the Indian Railways Commercial Manual Volume –I that prescribes timings within which reserved berths are to be used for sleeping. From 9 hours (9pm to 6am) earlier, the duration has been reduced to 8 hours (10pm to 6am) now.

Most long distance trains of the Indian Railways have sleeper coaches where in passengers can sleep during the night. There are occasions when passengers get into altercations about when can one use the lower berth for sleeping and for sitting. Chapter 6 of the Indian Railway Commercial Manual Volume –I  prescribes rules relating to reservation of berths, seats and compartments. This chapter also prescribes the timings within which reserved berths are to be used for sleeping.

What was the earlier rule?

Para 652 of  chapter 6 of the Indian Railway Commercial Manual Volume –I prescribes the timings within which a reserved berth can be used as a sleeping accommodation.  The earlier rule prescribed that for a duration of 9 hours between 9pm and 6am, a reserved berth can be used as a sleeping accommodation and as a sitting accommodation for the rest of the period.Sleeper Accommodation on Trains_1

What is the change in rule now?

The Railways has now amended para 652 to change the timings for sleeping accommodation. It issued a commercial circular on 31st August 2017 to this effect. According to the amended rules, the sleeper accommodation timings are now between 10pm and 6am in all reserved coaches with sleeping accommodation. In other words, the total duration for sleeping accommodation has been reduced to 8 hours from the earlier 9 hours.Sleeper Accommodation on Trains_2

The circular also makes it clear that a passenger who has booked a side upper berth can use the side lower berth for sitting during the day time. But he/she will not have any claim for seat on the side lower berth between 10pm and 6am.

Will this new rule help?

The Railways has reportedly said that the change in rules was prompted by frequent complaints about passengers using the middle & lower berths as sleeping accommodation beyond the allowed timings. But the change in rule may not help reduce such complaints or prevent altercations.

Firstly, the amended rules also mention that passengers are requested to cooperate with the sick, persons with disability and pregnant ladies if they wish to sleep beyond the permissible time limits. Those who wish to sleep for a longer period of time will anyway sleep citing they are sick or use some other pretext.

Secondly, most people tend to sleep early on trains and the change in the timings is only going to increase altercation between them and the others who wish to sleep late.  A better alternative would have been to sensitize passengers about the timings and strict implementation of the earlier rule by introducing penal provisions.

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