Railway reform: Station-to-home drop service among new ideas cleared by Suresh Prabhu

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New Delhi | January 5, 2015 10:55 AM

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has approved a bunch of new initiatives, believed to be potential money-spinners for the IRCTC.

Indian Railway, Suresh Prabhu, IRCTC, rail ticketsUnion Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu travels by a local train after the inauguration of Automatic Ticket Vending Machine, in Mumbai. (PTI)

Soon, you will be able to hire someone who will receive you at station when your train arrives, take care of your luggage and other hassles and then drop you home in a secure cab — all in a package deal offered by Railways on its ticket-booking website.

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu last month approved a bunch of new initiatives — believed to be potential money-spinners — for the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). Among them is the concept of “Concierge Service”, which is to be started with a pilot project in New Delhi. “We will be starting the service soon. It will come on the website,” A K Manocha, Chairman and Managing Director of IRCTC, told The Indian Express.

The IRCTC, which is basically an e-commerce giant of the railways, has also been given the go-ahead to explore the business of operating helicopter services at the Vaishno Devi shrine, run glass-roof trains for tourists, introduce special air-conditioned local train service in the metro cities and, in what is being viewed as unusual, sell apples too.

The IRCTC will procure high-quality apples from Container Corporation of India’s Sonepat facility. It will sell them to train passengers, at railway colonies and subsequently find other institutional bulk buyers, for instance the Indian Army.

The proposals were discussed in a meeting Prabhu had with IRCTC officials, where the corporation was identified as a potential big earner and a carrier of value-added services in the railways ecosystem with minimum liability to the transporter.

The helicopter service for devotees to the Vaishno Devi shrine is also one such service. With Katra railway station now operational in Jammu, the majority of devotees are railway passengers. Two helipads in Katra were made for the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who inaugurated the station earlier last year. The IRCTC will use those helipads and, with the approval of the Shrine Board, use the commercial landing facility near the temple. A preliminary assessment has revealed that only 10 per cent of the total demand for helicopter service is being currently met there, opening an opportunity for the railway arm.

Similarly, IRCTC has placed orders in the Integrated Coach Factory in Chennai to make broad-gauge coaches with glass-roofs. This will enable passengers of tourist trains to view the picturesque surroundings. There is a concern that glass rooftop might be prone to breakage in case of vandalism but the solution, it is said, lies in special bullet-proof glass.

The idea to start special air-conditioned local trains owes its genesis in an IT major in Chennai approaching IRCTC to run such a service in the suburban section for its employees. The special Electrical Multiple Units and Diesel Multiple Units may come for a special fee with certain add-on services, sources said.

Pushing the ideas, Prabhu has asked IRCTC to return with a detailed status report.

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