The Northern Railways has launched a Rs 20-crore culinary project, a first since it wrested the right to cater on trains from Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) last year. As per the new plan, it will dish out at least 2,16,400 meals per day from 12 mega and medium kitchens and 15 small kitchens across its network, which covers Delhi, Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
The IRCTC was in charge of catering services on trains and stations across the country until a new catering policy, introduced in 2010, made railway zones responsible for catering.
The Northern Railways general manager recently sanctioned the sum estimated to be spent in the first phase of the project, expected to be completed in a year. In this phase, seven mega kitchens will be set up at New Delhi, Nizamuddin, Jammu Tawi, Amritsar, Chandigarh, Lucknow and Varanasi stations.
“The equipment for the 11 big and small base kitchens alone will cost over R7 crore. We will be aiming for the most sophisticated and upgraded kitchen set-up available,” said SK Sharma, Northern Railways spokesperson.
The zonal railways in coordination with South Central Railways is preparing the menu, which will have to be sent to the railway board for approval. The team is focusing on a variety in terms of national and international cuisines and health food.
After meeting the heads of all the divisions, general manager SK Budhalakoti has also laid out a complaint redressal and cleanliness plan for the existing system of food on trains.
This involves ticket examiners doubling up as quality inspectors. Around 225 close-user-group cell phones have been distributed among ticket examiners, canteen staff and supervisors for this purpose.
“The ground staff will be coordinating with new monitoring cells at all the divisions and at the headquarters at Baroda House in Delhi,” said Budhalakoti.
This is aided by a relatively new system of accepting complaints through SMS on a centralised number. The turnaround time for SMS complaints is 90 minutes. Through these measures, complaints reduced by 47% last year compared to the year before that.
Budhalakoti has specially mentioned ridding the coaches of rodents and cockroaches and making sure that no food-related littering is allowed.