Soon you may have more choice, better food on trains

Unhappy with the food served on trains, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has decided to bring in new caterers and award contracts with fresh terms and conditions in the next three months.

To break the present cartel of a handful of catering vendors who have been controlling food supply to over 302 long-distance trains for decades, the new contract conditions will limit the number of trains one catering company can serve. The new standard bidding documents will include an enhanced licence fee and revised tariff.

As a result, the food on Rajdhanis, Shatabdis and Durontos may see a drastic change next year.

In a letter to all 17 zonal railways this week, Bansal directed the general managers to conduct ‘Passenger Opinion Surveys’ and “personally monitor” the award of contracts.

“Immediate action must be initiated so as to ensure supply of good quality and hygienic food,” Bansal wrote. “I expect that you shall personally monitor the award of contracts and setting up of mechanised and modern base kitchens… including service through trolleys.”

The Railway Minister also directed a new menu, with more variety, for food served at stations by catering vendors, known in the Railways as “static units”.

“It is noticed that despite the issue of instructions of allotment/renewal of such units, there has been no progress,” he wrote.

Officials said that food complaints figured high during every inspection made by the minister anywhere in the country. There have been written complaints about taste, hygiene and even quantity of the food served.

One of the problems has been that the prices of the food served on trains has not been revised for a decade. That is set to change.

Railways to take over catering services from IRCTC

Railways to take over catering services from IRCTC

A man boards a local train at a railway station in Kolkata February 24, 201…Railways has decided to strip the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) of its catering responsibilities on the Rajdhani, Duronto, Shatabdi and all other mail and express trains.

The Catering Policy-2010 finalised by Railways have clearly spelt out that “Railways shall progressively take over management of all mobile catering services including base kitchens, pantry cars and all food stalls in railway premises”.

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At present, IRCTC, a Railway subsidiary, is responsible for serving food in about 300 trains including in premier trains like Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi.

With this move, IRCTC will forgo a catering business worth at least Rs 200 crores, said a senior IRCTC official.

The Railway Board will now determine the menu and tariff for the standard meals, breakfast, tea and coffee, which are included in the fare.

The new policy comes in the wake of increased passenger complaints about the quality of food served on board trains and in stations.

IRCTC will now be responsible for selling e-ticket and i-ticket and running the Rail Neer business.

Besides, it will manage Food Plaza, Food Courts, fast food units.

However, the policy has stipulated that “all such contracts presently being managed by IRCTC, on expiry of the contract period, will be awarded by the zonal railways in a phased manner”.

IRCTC will not renew any contract required to be handed over to zonal railways on expiry of the contract.

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At present, there are about 65 food plazas across the country.

Railways will now formulate operating guidelines to implement the new catering policy.

Plagued with passenger complaints, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee had stated in her Budget speech this year that a new catering policy will be announced to improve the food quality.

Incidentally, IRCTC was formed during Mamata Banerjee’s regime in 2001.

The Jan Ahaar outlets started recently by Railways to provide affordable meals to all class of people will also be managed by zonal railways.

The policy took over a year to be finalised.

The last policy catering policy was formulated during Lalu Prasad’s regime in 2005.