Travel Classes in Indian Trains

Travelling is an integral part of the lives of human race. But the magnitude of travelling has changed a hell lot over the years. In olden days travelling merely meant getting from one place to another. People were not very choosy for a particular class while travelling via railways and luxury was never a part of travelling in those days. Trains used to be comprised of coaches where seats were made of iron rods that were moulded to form bench where people could sit.

But with advancements in technology, features, services people started taking care of these details while travelling. Soon came the sleeper classes, coaches with toilets, washbasins, cushioned berths and what not. It was then that the concept of AC Coaches started in Frontier mail (Now known as Golden Temple Mail). Although the technology used for air conditioning was quite unconventional way back in 1934. Thanks to the modern day Indian Railways that are employed to provide comfort and ease to the passengers at every step.

With changing travelling needs there are now various options of classes available by the Indian Railways to travel anywhere in India. I enjoy every bit of travelling but little do I know about the various abbreviations used by the Indian Railways like First AC (1A), Second AC (2A), Third AC (3A), First Class (FC), Executive Class (EC) etc and what are the differences between these different classes?

First AC (1A)

First AC sleeper Class of the Indian Railways are the most expensive mode of travelling. These are fully AC coaches. It consists of 4 or 2 berths per compartment and there are no side upper or side lower berths in 1A coaches. Compartment having 2 berths are called coupe and ones with 4 berths are called cabin.

Each compartment has a door which passengers can lock from inside. Charges are rocket high for First AC, sometimes even more than those of flight ticket but is worth giving a try. The berths are more comfortable and spacious, there is a small ladder to reach upper berth, dustbins to throw garbage (thanks to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan) and there are small tables for every passenger to have meals.

For trains like Rajdhani and Duronto, food is served in cutlery plates and bowls and there is special menu for 1A passengers unlike in 2A and 3A coaches where food is loaded from IRCTC’s Kitchen setups at various places. Also in some trains there is a button in each First AC compartment to call attendant at any point of time.

In some trains even washbasins are provided inside each compartment. There is also one washroom with shower facilities per coach where passengers can bathe and get ready. The curtains used in these coaches are fire-proof and blankets are covered and clean. Chart is prepared manually for 1A coaches hence, passengers get seat numbers only after chart is prepared.

If you are lucky, you might be welcomed with a flower and a welcome drink in this class making you feel like a Maharaja of some era.

  • Total Berths: 18-24
  • Chart Prepared manually.
  • Food prepared inside the train in pantry cars.
  • Pets (Dog or any other pet) allowed in this class subject to various conditions.
  • Washrooms to take shower (In some trains).
First AC coach
First AC sideway
First AC cabin
First AC gallery
First AC
First AC four berth cabin

AC Executive Class (EC)

These are Executive Class coaches by the Indian Railways. It is said to be Railway’s Business Class mode of travelling like in aircrafts. It is fully AC class with only Chair Car type seating arrangements. There are no Sleeper berths in these coaches. It is similar to CC (Chair Car) class like the one’s in Shatabdi trains. The only difference being seat arrangements are in 2 X 2 fashion in Executive Class making it more comfortable and spacious. Therefore there is more leg space and middle walk way is also wide.

Washrooms are clean and hygienic in this class. There are small tables attached to the back of your front seat, which can be used to have meals or to keep your belongings. The Executive class is present in Shatabdi trains, tejas express and in a handful double decker trains too. Fares for this class is too high, similar to first ac. Catering charges are included in ticket fare for this class for shatabdi trains. And as you know, the higher the class, the less noise; hence in this class too you would find people engrossed in their own world and you would hardly find any co-passengers chit chatting in this class.

Executive class seats Executive class cabin Executive class seats
Executive class coach Executive class seats Executive class

Second AC or AC 2-tier (2A)

This is second AC Sleeper class by the Indian Railways. In terms of features it stands less than the first ac coaches but in terms of service and comfort this class is way above 3A class. It has 6 berths in each compartment. Only 2 berths are there on each side of the compartment and there is no middle berth.

Therefore, it is also sometimes classed ac 2-tier. This gives ample space to passengers unlike crowded third AC coaches. The seats are spacious and curtains are provided in each compartment unlike in 3A coaches where curtains were removed recently. There is a reading lamp provided on each berth for anyone to use it personally.

Food served in second ac and third ac are same! Although you would feel attendants are more attentive and would bring you anything you demand (be it extra roti or extra rice or more dal or even extra pillow etc.) in 2A while in 3A attendants are more adamant and might refuse to bring you anything extra.

As a traveller I miss the train discussions and random communication with co-passengers here, since people do not indulge into much discussions and talking in these coaches generally. It is quieter in Second AC coaches compared to Third AC and Sleeper class coaches.

  • Total Berths: 48-54
  • Reading Lamps
  • Curtains
Second AC coach
Duronto Second AC
Second AC sideway
Second AC berths
Second AC gallery

First Class (FC)

First Class are the non ac coaches by the Indian Railways. This class was very popular in late 70’s and early 80’s amongst VIPs and politicians. But with the introduction of AC coaches, FC classes phased out slowly. Now only handful of trains offer First Class.

This class too have 2 Berth Coupes and 4 Berth Cabins with a door which can be latched from inside just like the ones in AC First class. The main reason for passengers to still continue to travel in this class is for the safety and peace of mind. There are no attendant call button or dustbins inside the cabins or coupes in this class, although these coaches comes equipped with reading lamps and are clean and hygienic.

Ticket fare of this class is comparatively higher than third ac and ac chair car while it is lower than the fares of second ac and first ac classes. Since people could travel in third ac with lesser money, almost everyone started preferring third ac over first class which further led to its demise.

Some of the toy trains too have first class. The FC class of toy trains and some of the short distance trains and passenger trains in India have seating arrangements only. Seats are in 2 X 1 fashion or 2 X 2 fashion . For example Rail Motor- 72451 have only FC class which have only seating arrangements. There are other short distance trains that have only FC class coaches for the entire train.

But it seems like this class would soon become extinct just like the dinosaurs, in coming years.

  • Safe due to doors per compartment.
  • Clean and hygienic.
First Class seats
First Class seats toy train

Third AC or AC 3-tier (3A)

This is the most common and most preferred class of travel by the Indian middle class passengers. Third AC Sleeper has 8 berths in each compartment. The backrest of the lower berth is pulled upward to make it a middle berth and since each side of the compartment has three seats, it becomes impossible for an adult to sit upright when all three berths are open.

Also, there is no reading lamps on the berths which is there in second ac class. The side upper and lower berth resemble the same to that provided in 2A Sleeper the exception being reading lamps. Hence there is extra head space in side berths and you might not risk getting hit on side berths. Washrooms are not as clean as in 2AC and First AC Sleeper coaches. The 8-berth compartment composition makes it little crowded.

Third ac coaches are normally heaviest coaches of the train. Well one thing I like about this class is that people get into discussions more frequently in this class, so if you are not looking out for personal space, you could indulge into group discussions with your co-passengers. If not, you can get on the upper berth and avoid any communication with others.

  • Total Berths: 64-72
  • No curtains
Third AC cabin
Third AC sideway
Third AC side seats
Third AC coach
Third AC berths
Thried AC gallery

Third AC Economy (3E)

This is very rare AC 3 tier Economy class available by the Indian Railways. They are just like 3A coaches the only difference being in the number of berths in each compartment. In 3A class there are 6 berths and 2 side berths in each compartment, but in 3E class there are 3 side berths making it a total of 9 berths per compartment. This class is available in some of the Duronto trains and Garib Rath Express (translates to poor man chariot).

The extra side middle berth in 3E class makes it bit congested in daytime journeys while it is comfortable or rather manageable during night journeys. Due to the side middle berth the head space in side berths are too less unlike in 3A coaches where there are ample of head space for the side berth passengers. The concept of Garib Rath was introduced by the then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav in view of passengers who could not afford to travel in AC Coaches.

For this class of travel in Garib Rath Express bedroll charges are not included in ticket fare and passengers need to opt the same during ticket reservation for which they are charged Rs. 25 extra. For the 3E class of other trains no extra bedroll charges are incurred and are already included in the ticket fare.

  • Total Berth: 72-81
  • Bedroll charges extra Rs. 25/- for some trains.
  • Side middle berth extra.
Third Economy sideway
Third Economy
Third Economy
Third Economy cabin
Third Economy side berths
Third Economy window

AC Chair Car (CC)

This is Chair Car class by the Indian Railways. It consists of only seating arrangements with 3 X 2 seats per row. Each seat is dedicated to one passenger. This is fully AC coach. This type of class is available in short journey trains. Premium trains like Shatabdi Express and some of the Duronto trains (Day time) has Chair Car coaches. Sometimes jan-shatabdi trains also have 1-2 ac chair car coaches. There is a space overhead to keep luggage and it is placed safe in your sight at all times.

There are small tables attached on the back of your front seat which a passenger can open to have meal or to keep their belongings. These coaches are clean and well maintained by the Indian Railways. I think travelling in Chair Car gives you a combined feeling of flight and bus journey. The fare for this class is higher than sleeper but lower than third ac.

Chair car double decker train
Chair car seats
chair car coach
Chair car seats
Chair car seats
chair car seats

Sleeper (SL)

These are sleeper class coaches by the Indian Railways. These are Non-AC Coaches and have 8 berths per compartment. The windows are not shielded with thick glasses unlike in AC coaches hence there is enough air ventilation. But with air comes dust, sunrays and water (During rainfall) through the windows. It gets too hot in daytime and too cold during nights in these coaches. One can view and feel beautiful countryside sceneries more in Sleeper Class coaches.

Since attendants are not there for these coaches, safety remains a major issue in this class of travel. There are lots of hawkers selling tea, coffee, bhelpuri, books and lots of other stuff inside the train in this class. The best part with these hawkers coming and going is that it reminds you of your childhood memories. These hawkers are not allowed to board the train in AC class coaches. Since travelling in sleeper class is very economical, it is mostly preferred for short overnight journeys by the passengers.

One can see people discussing a hell lot on any topic in this class. There is a great deal of noise (from the windows and from the chit chatting going around). The capacity of this coach is normally 72 passengers but don’t be surprised if you see twice or more passengers inside a sleeper coach. This is because a lot of people having waitlisted ticket or unreserved ticket also travel in this class. So if you are looking for some lonely quiet time, we would highly recommend not to prefer this class.

  • Total Berth: 72-80
  • 8 berths per compartment.
  • Usually 2 windows that can be opened/closed manually.
sleeper class outside view
sleeper class berths
sleeper class
sleeper class coach
sleeper class window
sleeper class door

Second Seating or 2S:

These are Second Seating Class by the Indian Railways. 2S is a Non AC class coach which are the cheapest class to travel by the Indian Railways. This class is common in most daytime Intercity and Janshatabdi trains. 2S can be reserved or unreserved. For reserved 2S category coaches are equipped with chair car seats in 3X3 fashion. Since it is non AC class, it gets quite uncomfortable at times during summer. Also, 3X3 seating makes it bit compact and congested.

For the unreserved class seats are bench like just like in buses and local trains and 3 passengers can accommodate per bench. You would find this class to be most lively as there is always some movement going around in this class. You would find various short distance passengers who would always occupy seats in this class and would be engaged in highest level of discussions.

For long journeys it is not advisable to travel by this class. Many a times people fight over seat in this class due to the unreserved nature and big demand.

Second seating coach Second seating with passengers Second seating seats
Second seating class Second seating wndow Second seating coach

Do you know there is luggage allowance in railways too just like in airways. There is a maximum limit for the luggage load allowed per passenger in trains beyond which a passenger is liable to be charged extra. This is different for different classes by the Indian Railways. Although I never found this rule to be followed very strictly by the passengers and railway employees but if a passenger is seen carrying shit load of extra luggage, they need to take special permission from the railway authority for which they are charged extra. There are specified luggage dimension too for the passengers to carry them in their compartment. Your luggage’s outside dimensions for trunks, suitcases and bags should not exceed 100cmsX60cmsX25cms (length X breadth X height). Anything beyond this might be objected by the railway authorities. In case a luggage dimensions fall beyond this capacity, it needs to be carried only by brake van/luggage coach car.

Class Free Luggage Allowance (Kgs) Extra Permitted (Kgs) Maximum Allowance(Kgs)
1A- First AC Sleeper 75 15 150
2A- AC 2-tier Sleeper /First Class 50 10 100
3A - AC 3-tier Sleeper / Chair Car 40 10 80
SL- Sleeper Class 40 10 70
2S- Second Class 35 10 60

The dimensions of berths differs for different classes and for different category of trains. For instance first ac coaches are very spacious and 2 people can easily accommodate on a single berth of this class while it is narrow in Sleeper class (SL) coaches. Also side berths are shorter in length compared to its opposite lower, middle or upper berths for all the classes. Dimensions for lower/middle and upper berths are usually in the range of 181cms-190cms (length) while it is 179 cms-188 cms (length) for side berths.

Here is a comparison list of various features for different classes in Indian Railways:

Features 1A EC 2A FC 3A CC SL
Attendant Call Button Yes No No No No No No
Dustbins inside compartment Yes No No May or may not No No No
Curtains Yes Fireproof No Yes No No No No
Fare Very high Very high High High Moderate Moderate Low
Air Conditioning Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
Sleeper Yes No Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Only Seating No Yes No No No Yes No
Cabin/ Coupe Yes No No Yes No No No
Reading lamps Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No

Here is the price comparison between different classes for trains between Mumbai and Ahmedabad

Class Fare (Rs.)
First AC (1A) 1940
Executive Class (EC) 1930
Second AC (2A) 1150
First Class (FC) 950
Third AC (3A) 815
Chair Car (CC) 665
Sleeper (SL) 315
Second Seating (2S) 180