The catering services offered by IR have been in the need of improvement. The catering services have come under the purview of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited. They are a PSU of Ministry of Railways, which have to compulsorily provide catering services on trains and create a preeminent distinction between food preparation and distribution. This is to replace the Zonal railway systems, which have been the in charge of food delivery and catering. The existing kitchens in the railway circuit are on the verge of getting renovated. Efforts have also been made to incorporate technology with catering services. Just as the live train status can be tracked through a phone, a commuter’s dinner can also be tracked!
The plans for ensuring hygienic food
- E-catering services can be established where station based food can be available to customers for widening their options.
- Pre-cooked meals can be served to passengers. These meals are ready to eat meals.
- Real time assistance can be provided to passengers with the assistance of a help line number that looks after passenger grievances.
- Penalties can be made mandatory for sub-standard services or food that has been served with discrepancies.
- Social media handles are also provided to customers for easy redressal of grievances.
Efforts to curb unfair practices
- A pilot project has been introduced in prepaid trains, where a customer has the option to deny food services available on the train. An example includes the introduction of the Tejas train on 22nd May 2017. The commuters who book tickets for this train have the option of denying food on the train. Catering charges will be removed from the fare charges. However, to protect the interests of the railway management, an extra fee is charged if customers apply for food services even after denying them while booking.
- Zero tolerance policy against the bad quality of food being served at overpriced rates has led to the termination of 16 contracts with catering services in 2017. Any contractual deficiencies have not been tolerated and 16 contractors have been blacklisted for their inefficient work.
- Audits of base kitchens are undertaken by Zonal railways periodically, called Third Party audits. An independent agency is hired to conduct these audits adhering to the Catering Policy 2017.
- Humsafar trains have been equipped with Automatic Vending Machines which disseminate beverages such as tea, coffee, and soup. A few Humsafar trains have fully operational AVM services.
Water vending machines
- Water vending machines have been functional since 2015, with the objective to make potable water available to passengers at affordable prices.
- These dispensaries will give water at prices lower than packaged drinking water.
- The technology used in these dispensaries includes microprocessors and interlocks to make sure that the quantity and quality are maintained. Reverse Osmosis technology or some alternate form of superior technology is employed which is dependent on the level of contamination in the water.
IR has tried to ensure a good standard of travel by trying to improve every aspect that comes with travel, including catering. By the introduction of E-catering there has been an increase in the quality of food that is served to passengers at their convenience.