Railways plans plane-like meals on elite trains

Come July, railways has plans to serve passengers with a ‘combo meal’ on elite trains such as Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto.

Like the food served on airplanes, the combo meal will be simple but high in taste and quality, said chairman of Railway Board Ashwani Lohani. He added that the move will be on a trial basis and if it finds favour with passengers, it will be later extended to all 64 premium trains.

Railways has decided reform its catering services through steps such as rationalising the menu and using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and CCTV cameras to flag irregularities in preparation.

“The menu would be simple, could be in the form of combo meal, comprising at best two to three items similar to what is served by airlines. High in quality and taste,” he told media persons here.

The combo meal is aimed at reducing the number of complaints against the quality of food served on Rajdhani and Duronto.

The existing menu, he added, comprises six-seven items, but is often low on quality and also at times compromised on hygiene.

The Railways has come under repeated criticisms over the quality of food served. Last year, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its report had termed the food served at stations and in trains “unfit for human consumption”.

“It will be rationalisation of meals,” said Lohani, adding that many of the items served in regular meals are perishable. An official said the quantity of food served on long-distance trains will be taken care of by the transporter.

Keen to improve quality of food served in trains, The transporter has also decided to deploy managers belonging to its catering wing Indian Railways Catering & Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) in all 334 mail and express trains on which catering is provided.

Random inspection of quality of food will also be carried out to ensure passengers get better meals during journey in trains and stations.

Terming incidents of poor quality meals being served on trains as reported in a section of the media an ‘aberration’, the Railway Board chairman said, “They don’t exactly reflect the ground reality.” He added that the railways serves 12 lakh meals -10 lakh on trains and 2 lakh at stations.

To deal with the complaints of overcharging, Lohani said point of sale (POS) machines will be deployed on trains so that passengers are provided bills for food items they purchase.

More than 3,000 POS machines will be deployed on trains and IRCTC has issued orders to procure around 1,000 hand-held electronic bill printing devices.

“This has been done to ensure reduction in repeated complaints of overcharging, resulting in bad publicity for the IRCTC and railways,” said an official. Earlier this month, the railways said that passengers on 25 trains can now choose their meals from a pre-loaded menu and pay through credit or debit cards without worrying about being overcharged or having to shell out the exact amount for their food.

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