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Year View| Summary| Highlights| Month View| Thursday 16 November 2000 (Day View)
16.11.2000 – Thursday 16 November – Varanasi
- • Ric and I took a rickshaw to the train station to book tickets out of Varanasi. I was planning to go to CALCUTTA and Ric was planning on going to BOMBAY (MUMBAI) and then on to MADGAON in GOA. The ticket booking computer was inoperable, some kind of network problem, so it took two hours for us to book our tickets. We just sat in line with the rest of the tourists in the tourist booking office, and waited. And waited. It’s quite a common thing to do in India, waiting.
It cost 255 rupees to CALCUTTA and over 600 to GOA.
- • After returning to the ghat area, I wrote an email to Sarah and Silas, and got one from Shan saying his Gramps was unwell. I also bought some butter, then to top it all off, I was bitten by a dog. It was a nice white fluffy dog, on a leash and all, which is in itself a very rare sight in India where most dogs are beyond mange. Fortunately (in a country where rabies is common), it only bit my shorts.
- • Here is a little bit about Indian Rail.
- • Many Indian trains have a “tourist quota” set aside for foreign tourists. The train station will sell you a book “Trains at a Glance” which lists all major trains and their departure times etc. throughout the whole of India. The June 2000 – June 2001 book cost 25 rupees, is 192 pages long, and comes with a free foldout map. If you really must know every single train, the 300 pages long Indian Bradshaw, which is published monthly, lists each and every single passenger train that runs on Indian Rail. Larger stations have separate ticket booking windows to deal with tourists and other minorities (such as “freedom fighters”). Ladies may barge to the front of the queue (and will do so). If paying in rupees, an encashment certificate must be shown (which is obtained when changing foreign currency into local currency) and a passport must always be shown to obtain a tourist quota booking.
There are three main types of passenger train in India. Mail, Express and Passenger. Express and mail trains average 50 km/h while passenger trains only manage to average 30 km/h. On most major rail routes, super fast Shatabdi Express and Rajdhani Express trains run. These average around 130 km/h, which is convincingly faster than trains in Australia. Very convincingly on sections where the track is slightly warped and the train gets up a nice wobble – at 160 km/h or so. I would tend to sit in the door of the carriage, watching the country going by, and hanging on very tightly.
There are basically two classes or rail travel, first class and second class. But within them, there is first class and then there is first class air-con. Then there is a slightly cheaper air-con two-tiered sleeper, followed by air-con three-tiered sleeper and air-con chair car. Second class comes in reserved sleeper, and unreserved. Unreserved is NOT recommended. Seats are wooden slats designed to hold four people. They will be holding eighteen. And that’s before you get on the train and try to find a place for you to sit. Second class sleeper, which is how I travelled most of the time, has two cushioned benches facing each other, each of which will have four people reserved to sit on them. The backrest folds up at night to make a bunk, there is another bunk near the roof, and the seat itself becomes a bunk. Thus six people can sleep in a berth, and eight can sit, and will hold reserved tickets for the seats, but this won’t stop their being anything from two to six more people squashed in. It is a constant battle to ensure one’s seat remains sittable.
For anyone that thinks India would have a substandard rail system, here are a few statistics:
Indian Railways are the largest rail network in Asia and the world’s second largest under one management. Criss-crossing the country’s vast geographical spread, Indian Railways are a multi-gauge, multi-traction system covering over one hundred thousand track kilometres, 300 yards, 2300 goods sheds and 700 repair shops. Its rolling stock fleet includes 8,300 locomotives, 39,000 coaching vehicles and 350,000 freight wagons. It runs some 11,000 trains everyday, including over 7,000 passenger trains. That’s more than 7,000 passenger trains, which carry a bit over 10.5 million passengers between 7,100 stations. Every day. It is also the world’s largest employer, with over 1.65 million employees! They carried 4.2 billion passengers in 1999 and predict a 60% increase for the year 2000. That would bring yearly passenger carriage up to about 6.7 billion passengers, or 18 million passengers every day.
When I was there, track quality was considered better than the equivalent British Rail.
The standard menu on Indian Rail trains, when I was using them was:
Indian Railways Catering Services:
Tea with tea bag (150 ml) Rs. 3/–
Coffee Rs. 4/–
Mineral Water (1 Litre) Rs. 10/–
Standard breakfast (Veg.) Rs. 15/–
Standard breakfast (Non-veg.) Rs. 18/–
Casserole Meal (Veg.) Rs. 25/–
Casserole Meal (Non-veg.) Rs. 30/–
Janata Khana Rs 6/–
Economy Meal (in refreshment room, i.e. at a station, not onboard) Rs 12/–
Veg. Thali Meal (in refreshment room) Rs. 25/–