Sunday, July 10, 2011

Travelling with a Dog by Train

Wife, son & daughter (Posto!)

I recently (8/9 July 11) travelled from Kolkata to New Delhi with my year and a half old Boxer bitch, 'Posto' on the 12273 Howrah - New Delhi Duronto train. This post is to provide the details of the journey to all dog lovers who can then plan their own trips with dogs. 

One of the reasons why there is so much of confusion when it comes to carriage of dogs by trains is that there is very little information from the side of the Indian Railways. The website language is sketchy and bureaucratic and does not answer all questions that come to mind. I hope this post might answer some of the questions.

Indian Railways permits dogs to be carried in two ways. The rules are spelt out here (scroll down completely). One option is to put the dog in the dog box in the brake van (BTW: In the official site it is spelt break and brake in the same sentence!) of the train. The second way is to keep the dog with the owner provided the owner has confirmed berths in the First Class AC compartment. The second has some major considerations which I will cover subsequently. I chose this option with marginal success. 

In the brake-van

The brake-van is a portion of the luggage compartment which if usually found at one end of the train. The brake-van is the place where the guard sits and from the door of which he waves his green or red flag. At the corner of the brake-van is the dog-box. This is a horribly dark, musty and stinky enclosure with only one door with hardly any ventilation...a torture for any dog. Use this option only if all else fails.

Putting a dog here means that at each and every station you have to rush to the brake-van, open the dog box and take the dog out for it's constitutional and also to feed it and the put it back all the while keeping in mind that you also have to get back to your compartment. In the Duronto train, the brake-van was right next to the AC First Class. To put the dog in the brake-van, you do not have to have a AC First Class ticket, a confirmed ticket in any class with do...I am not so sure about unconfirmed tickets.

To take the dog in the break-van, bring the dog to the railway station early. Depending on the station and the familiarity of the station staff with the procedures, the dog might need to be weighed. The rules state that the dog needs to be booked like a piece of luggage and the flat weight for a dog being taken on the brake-van is 30kgs.  So at the station, you go to the Parcel/Luggage Booking Office and take a form, fill up the bare minimum basic details including your mobile number and the booking clerk does the rest. Once he enters the details the totally computerised system generates a number which me scrawls on the form you filled and then tells you to go to the payment window. You go to the window WITH your ticket and hand-over both the form and ticket. He now enters the system generated number scribbled on your form and it tells you what to pay. You pay the amount and then you are given a white stiff card on which is scrawled the train no, the system generated number, origin station, destination station and the comment 'dog in dog-box', wt 30 kgs and the signature of the booking clerk. You are also given a white thread (like a pajama 'nara') with which you are supposed to tie this white stiff card to the collar of the dog!

Then they say please go to the brake-van with the dog and wait and our man will meet you there. Note, at this stage they have not given you a 'bilti'...the most important receipt. This will be given to you when you hand over the dog to the guard at the origin station and you will need to show it to the guard at the destination station. Remember the guards change and the guard you handed over the dog to, will not be the one handing back the dog to you...hence the need for proper documentation. In case you do not have a bilti, you could be checked on the way out from the destination railway station and fined for carrying a dog without paying the luggage rate.   

Along with the owner in AC First Class

Now coming on to the procedure to carry a dog along with the owner in the AC First Class. The first prerequisite is that the owner must have confirmed berths.  

Now comes the first major ghundi...the owner must have either two or four seats booked...three or one will not suffice under the normal conditions! I discovered this during this trip. The reason for this is that when you go to the Parcel/Luggage Booking Counter, they enter the details into the computer and the system rejects the entry in case you have one or three berths. I suppose the reason is that if you have one or three tickets, the opinion of the other passengers comes into play and you could be asked to remove the dog to the brake-van. This could also be a simple software glitch! So have either two berths or four. In case three passengers have to travel, one will have to have a ticket on a separate PNR Number.  Related with this is the risk of not getting a two-berth coupe despite having two confirmed berths. You could land up with two berths in a four berth coupe! 

Herein lies the second major ghundi...how to get a two berth coupe? The answer lies in writing a letter to the Assistant Commercial Manager - Passenger Reservations and requesting for a two-berth or four-berth coupe as the case may be. Generally the request is met. In Kolkata, the ACM Passenger Reservations sits at Railway Reservation Office at New Koilaghat Building, 14 Strand Road, Kolkata. Basically anywhere, the Chief Commercial Manager would oversee the reservations and the power to allot coupes would be delegated to an ACM responsible for reservations.

The third ghundi...is that I could not pay the luggage fare for travelling with the dog in AC First Class until the chart was prepared which basically means till about two hours or less, before the train departed! I suppose this is the practice.  This is probably because in the case of AC First Class, the seats are not allocated at the time of booking...all your ticket says is that the seats are confirmed, numbers are allotted at the time of preparation of charts. Thus the software is not aware of the seating configuration and hence rejects the dog.  So while at the Parcel/Luggage Booking Counter I was frantically sending SMSes to 139 to find out the seat numbers, while keeping an eye on the time to ensure that I had enough time to reach the train from the Parcel/Luggage Booking Counter. This is probably since the system

In my case, I had three passengers travelling on the same ticket which included my five year old son, my wife and myself. Since we were all on one ticket, the system refused to accept the dog. All this after I had visited ACM Reservations and had got the letter endorsed in green ink by the extremely busy officer and deposited the letter in a certain hole-in-the-wall letter box (with all misgivings). So in my case, I had a two berth coupe and one berth in a four-berth coupe, and yet due to the software issue, I could not book the dog with me. So as a last resort I booked her onto the dog-box without actually putting her in the brake-van...I kept her with me in the two berth coupe. The TTE tried to use the situation to his advantage but my approach was that 'Look, take the full fine if you have to and I will get it refunded from the Railways since I have not committed any crime...if the software has an issue then I cannot be blamed'.  They realised that I was not going to grease their palms and let it go at that. Add to it, though I did not have the bilti, I did have that white card to be tied around her neck...proof enough that I did book her into the brake van. 

The Expenses

Just to give you an idea of the costs: luggage rates are mentioned in a book called the TTE Companion found with all TTEs and are based on distance. The distance from Kolkata to New Delhi is 1446km and can be found printed on the top of your tickets under the K.M. (kilometers) column. I had to pay Rs 135/- for carrying the dog in the brake van (though I actually did not carry the dog in the brake van). In case I carried the dog with myself in the AC First Class, then the charge was approx Rs 435/-. All fines are six times the basic charge...thus if I had not bothered to pay the luggage charge, I would have had to pay about Rs 2500/-...which would still have been cheaper than sending the dog by air and also the dog would go comfortably.

Points to remember

  • Rajdhani Trains do not have a dog box as far as I know. 
  • In places like Kolkata, do play the sentimental angle for a favourable action by the railway staff...it is amazing where all you find dog lovers. 
  • Bengalis are generally sentimental and if you can convince them that your wife, son, daughter or mother-in-law will have a stroke/heart attack/diarrhea if the dog is not with then in the coupe, you have won half the battle.
  • It is virtually impossible for one person to win this battle along...so get someone to help out...if all else fails, just jump into the train with the dog and pay the fine later. Keep the dog with you as far as possible. Avoid the dog-box.
  • Incidentally, I happened to look at the drop down menu for carriage of dogs in the software. The three options were dog in brake-van, dog with owner in AC First Class & Seeing Eye dog with blind passenger!!! I was impressed.  
Hope this helps. All the best and safe journey!

Posto being her adorable self, on the Duronto

31 comments:

  1. Simply awesome info, thanks for sharing in this level of detail, really helpful!

    Had figured out about booking berths in units of 2 or 4 to maximise chances of a coupe being allotted.. yes, the number of things left to chance are a nightmare!

    Have currently shelved the plan of taking Bozo with us because of the following reasons:

    The Duronto express(29 hrs) was reflecting online as the only train with the 1st AC option - whether it meant ticket availability or category, I could not understand.

    It is a non stop train and is only supposed to have 'technical halts'. I could not get any info as to how many stops there are, for what duration, least of all where (platform or no) Therefore, the loo breaks for a big dog like Bozo were too uncertain - Cannot carry him on and off the train if it stops in the middle of nowhere.
    Wouldnt have minded going on a slower train with more defined breaks though i would have had a tough time convincing bozo to finish his jobs on command, on the platform, for 3 days, poor thing!! looking at the alternatives - vestibule in the moving train -Traumatic. loo- Traumatic. inside the coupe - OMG!
    So, critical question: where & how did you manage to get Posto to Pee & Pot???
    I guess an overnight 12-16 hour journey was not a problem on that front?
    Thanks again for sharing, am sure I will need it later!

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  2. that was one detailed blog... and a very rare topic i guess... for all dog lovers :-) btw.. i loved the name posto.. very very innovative.. :-)

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  3. Hi !


    hope your blog is active and you get a chance to read this soonestest !
    I will be travelling by Rajdhani Express from New Delhi to Dibrugarh alone, with my dog ( I plan to do so that is).
    1. Can I book two tickets online on my name , and follow up with the application to ACM reservations for a coupe ?
    your comments pl ( email me at rajabhattacharjee2005@gmail.com )

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  4. hi,
    Thanks for your post. I followed the directions you shared exactly and could travel with my dog from Howrah to Bangalore yesterday.
    Few points, i would like to mention for future readers:
    1) When requesting 2 seater coupe to the commercial manager, the request is generally accepted, except when there is a VIP request. In case of a VIP request(before chart preparation), your request for a coupe takes lesser precedence.
    2) The parcel booking office is quite far from the platform and parcel booking officers might tell you that you don't need to book dog for excess luggage (like in my case). Insist to them that they should do it as part of railway policy else show you the rule book.
    3) In case you jump in with your dog to the coupe without booking excess luggage, the TT would ask u to pay fine. Just tell the TT to charge in full and you would get it refunded from railways.

    Happy journey!!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Folks,

      Sorry for the inordinate delay...am accessing net after a long time...and visiting the blog after ages.

      Priya: Posto refused to Pee or Poo at all. She just did nothing for the full 18 or what ever hours that she was on the train. She also did not eat or drink. There are technical halts...about 4 or 5. Each for a good 10-20 mins.

      Dream Peddler: thanks for appreciating

      Raja: not sure...did you try it? Results?

      Anonymous: thanks for the inputs.

      Thanks for appreciating folks.

      regards

      RS

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  5. Hi !

    I was reminded of this blogpost by a fellow dog lover in a similar predicament.. and let me assure you guys that the tips given herein are priceless !

    As regards two berths on one name.. it is possible to book two berths on your name online.. but i do not know if Indian Railways TTE will honour your ticket.. I then booked two tickets ( one on my name and one on my wife's name) hoping like hell that the TTE would not give the wifey's berth to someone else..
    However, it turns out that this is quite a standard practice , as there is no other feasible method by which a single person with a dog can travel by Indian Railways in Rajdhani .
    Remember, in Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains, there is no dog box in the guard's cabin. So, if by chance you don't have a two berth coupe/ four berth compartment in AC1 all for yourself, you cannot travel with your dog.
    Best regards

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  6. THANK YOU so much for this info!! I'm planning to travel with my dog from Mumbai to Mathura in February and your post has been such an eye-opener. Already booked 2 tickets for my parents in AC1! Now I am almost confident that I will be able to take my doggy to my destination without any hassles. :-)

    PS: Posto is suck a doll!!

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  8. Great information. I am with my husband and Lab travelling on Sunday 9th Dec, from Visakhapatnam to Chennai on Howrah mail. I have booked 2 berths on same PNR. My problem is that since we are not at an originating station, that being HOwrah, how do i request a coupe as the chart will be prepared in HOwrah? So i'm writing to the ACM at HOwrah in the hope our request will be heard. Also going to the Vizag ACM to make a request before we travel. Should this be enough? I'm starting to get worried....Any advice??

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  9. Update from Vizag: We have spent a whole day trying to get in touch with people but to no avail. Not being at the originating station the local Vizag CM has no clout. There is only 1 coupe on our train and just yesterday a friend with his dog got kicked off the list because an MLA wanted the coupe. We cannot take that risk, plus contacting the Kolkata CM is proving difficult. We'll have the same difficulty in chennai on our way back to vizag and since we don't live in chennai we cannot afford to get kicked off the train or go in advance to submit a letter etc. So we have opted to drive (as we have always done in the past). I just can't take the risk. THe odds of just 1 coupe are too risky.But thanks for your excellent advice

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  10. THANKS A LOT FOR THE INFORMATION........... I HAVE BENEFITED FROM THE INFORMATION.......THANKS A LOT AGAIN........

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  11. Excellent bro, it has taken the pressure off me, I was just looking for all these details. Thank you very much for putting such important information online for the benefit of everyone.

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  12. Excellent bro, it has taken the pressure off me, I was just looking for all these details. Thank you very much for putting such important information online for the benefit of everyone.

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  13. Souldier, you're a life saver. You don't know how helpful this info can turn out to be for people like us who want to travel with their four legged best friends. I'm traveling with Bozo (3.5 month lab) soon, hope to use this same strategy then. Thank you!

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  14. Iam shifting my dog a pomerianfromdelhito bangalore in few days time.kindly suggest if Duronto has a Dog Box at TTE/Vendor?What precautions to be taken and if you think we should take him in AC first class then how do i get a 2 berth coupe?
    I have booked in ac 2 tier for my family,as i dont know the procedure to contact the asst commerical manager for getting the 2 berth coupe in ac first class!
    We are 3 people(me,my wife and my son) travelling besides my pet Sunny?
    Urgent advice needed,please as iam travelling first time like this.
    rgds,
    Prasanta Chatterjee, 09810901598

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  15. Thanks a TON Dada for the DETAILED INFORMATION. I am from Kolkata and have recently shifted to New Delhi after my marriage. Now, it's time to bring my 7 years old tom cat(Sonu baba)to my new residence as there was no body else to take actual care of him at my parents house. Basically he is very moody and stubborn in nature ( e.g., once he decides to go out he will manage it by any means, even he will be crying continuously until i let him go out).Just to inform that, i alone have to travel with him. In this regard, I just want to know which option I should go for him - brake van or AC FIRST CLASS? And, if I take him in AC First class with me shall I take some extra equipment like cat harness and travel crate with me? Do they allow crate within coupe? Please help...

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  16. Buy an additional ticket and get a two berth coupe for yourself and travel safely with Sonu baba. Dont even dream about the brake van...it is terrible.

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  17. Nice....

    But my issues is much typical from past 3days im turning around Railway stations but no luck.
    How will be the journey in Break Van? coz its loooking like i may not get the berth in COUPE.. due to rush of holidays

    Regards
    Surendra

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  18. Thank u very much for ur concern for the dog lovers....ur post is a life saver...

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  19. Dear Souldier,
    Thank you for going into all the details and explaining the very nuts and bolts of it. Yoeman's service, i'd say.Happy tidings !

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  20. wow... great help.. thanks soldier...

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  21. Thanks for taking time to share this valuable info! :)

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  23. Hello!
    Your post helped tremendously while my husband and I planned our first trip with our dog, Boo. Thought I’d share the experience: http://sakhalkar.blogspot.in/2013/11/traveling-with-your-dog.html

    Paws-up to Posto from Boo!

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    Replies
    1. Dear Shraddha, just went thru ur post...excellent. It will be of great help to dog lovers.
      Well done.

      regards
      RS

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  24. This article Helped me alot ! I appreciate the effort put into writing this .

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  25. Thanks a lot. Ur blog was really helpful, travelled from bct to nzm yesterday with wife and my 3 month old lab named zoey. Few things that could be added to the blog.

    1. Always take an e-ticket printout in case u have an e-ticket.
    2. Take printouts of consent forms..( make one urself)...with you for worst case emergencies.
    3. U will have to etthe tt or the railway staff to sign on the printout of e-ticket about ur seat number and coach and that u hae coupe.
    4. Go to the Assistant commercial manager well in time and take a written request.
    5. While booking ur AC 1st class tciket. Write Mrs and Mr while booking. Increases urchance of coupe and have a same surname.

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    1. I want to book travel with my pet from Mumbai to Patna. As the provided information that in case we want the pet to travel with us in a 2-seater coupe, we'll have to write an application to the ACM for the same well in advance. I want to know how long is this well in advance. Like i am planning to travel on 6th of May. When should i submit the application to ACM ?

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      Delete
  26. I want to book travel with my pet from Mumbai to Patna. As the provided information that in case we want the pet to travel with us in a 2-seater coupe, we'll have to write an application to the ACM for the same well in advance. I want to know how long is this well in advance. Like i am planning to travel on 6th of May. When should i submit the application to ACM ?

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  27. Initially you can mange it on the agressively matter, put some lives Travelling pet

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