Rail tests out male stewards before hostesses

Air hostesses, be prepared for competition from Earth.

If everything works out according to plan, train passengers could soon be pampered with some “comforts of an aeroplane” — including hot meals served on trolleys pushed by rail hostesses.

“We are trying to match up to the air-travel experience by improving the quality of services,” a railway official said.

The plan to introduce hostesses on trains took shape after the Indian Railways, the lead sponsor of the Commonwealth Games, experimented with food trolleys when it played host to athletes and officials from participating nations on trips to the Taj Mahal.

The two-hour journey on the Taj Commonwealth Express, from Delhi’s Safdarjung station to Agra, saw male attendants in black sherwanis and red turbans serve a mix of Indian and western fare.

Sources said the trolley service had got the thumbs-up from the athletes and the officials and the railways now planned to introduce it with hostess on select Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains.

“The safety and security of the rail hostess will be uppermost when they are introduced in a phased manner on short-distance luxury trains and select prestigious trains. They will be deployed on those trains where the trolley service will be introduced,” said an official. “The idea is to offer all the comforts of an aeroplane and make the train journey a memorable experience.”

Kenyan John Eriku Kelai, who won the men’s marathon gold, said the hospitality on the Taj Commonwealth Express was “superb”. “The food on board the train was good, clean and neatly packed.”

Malaysian athletes Nor Iryani and Azim Azami said it was a “wonderful trip” that added “spice” to the Games.

Jamaican athlete Jomovcy Arummy Victoria was “mesmerised” by the Taj and thanked the railways for arranging the trip. “I have seen ancient buildings in Greece and the Great Wall of China. At the Commonwealth Games 2010, my dream to see the Taj came true.”

The railways ran the express — a brand new train vinyl-wrapped in Commonwealth colours on the outside — under an arrangement with the Games organising committee. Beginning October 6, the train made eight trips and carried 2,928 athletes and officials from the participating nations. With a seating arrangement of three chairs on one side and two on the other, the food trolley had enough space to move.

“We have received proposals to continue the train as a commercial venture, especially for foreign tourists. We are thinking of taking up the proposal with the railway board,” said Northern Railway chief commercial manager P.K. Goel.

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