Railway passengers will soon be offered ready-to-eat meals by the likes of Nestle.
Railway passengers will soon be offered ready-to-eat meals by the likes of Nestle. The move follows the transporter’s decision to introduce pre-packaged food, instead of freshly cooked food, for passengers on board its trains after several complaints on the quality of food being provided.“We are starting a pilot with Nestle (to serve ready-to-eat food) and have identified a couple of trains. These are not Rajdhanis or Shatabdis,” said a ministry of railway official. Under the plan, Nestle will be vending pre-packed food to passengers instead of the current practice of Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation-authorised vendors offering freshly cooked food. The railways plans to regulate the maximum retail price (MRP) of the items offered and Nestle is expected to introduce new packs meant only for railways. “Since the volume will be high, we will negotiate prices,” added the official. The idea of offering pre-packaged meals with MRP was seeded after current railway minister Piyush Goyal took over and under the plan, apart from Nestle, e-caterers such as Haldiram and Dominos were to be approached.
The railways is already offering the option of ready-to-eat food on the Firozpur Shatabdi. “In Firozpur Shatabdi, passengers have the option to choose ready-to-eat or freshly-cooked food at the cost already paid. Around 10-20% are opting for ready-to-eat meals,” said the official, adding the railways plans to proliferate pre-packaged meals and is in talks with some popular food chains. “These people (food chains), we believe, have a good name and sell high quality stuff,” said the official. In July, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, in a report, said that the food served on trains was “unfit for human consumption”. “Unpurified water straight from the tap was used in preparation of beverages; waste bins were found not covered, not emptied regularly, and not washed; food stuffs were not covered to protect them from flies, insects and dust; rats and cockroaches were found in trains,” the report had observed.
The official quoted above said the railways is trying to proliferate e-catering — wherein passengers can pre-order food from food chains and aggregators to be delivered at selected stations — and ready-to-eat food. “The biggest advantage of ready-to-eat meals is that complaints of alien material found in food is expected to stop,” added the official. The railways also expects that this will help in driving away unauthorised vendors from on-board trains, as when passengers have better option, they will hopefully opt for it. Meanwhile, the railways is also setting up 70-75 base kitchens across the country, of which 20-25 will become operational within this financial year. These kitchens, to be monitored through close-circuit cameras, will have state-of-the-art mechanised cooking systems and all the 12 lakh meals served on the Indian Railways network daily will be prepared in these kitchens. At present, IRCTC-authorised contractors cook food at their facilities.