Indian Railways train journeys are incomplete without good food. Munching snacks and enjoying tasty dishes are the best way to pass the travel time while enjoying the countryside view in a train journey. However, IRCTC has often faced criticism for the quality of food that is served both on Indian Railways trains and stations. Not only that, last year CAG had in its report even deemed food on Indian Railways unfit for human consumption. In a bid to address passenger complaints, Piyush Goyal-led Indian Railways is taking several steps to improve quality of food and also avoid overcharging by vendors. From use of Artificial Intelligence to ‘Menu on Rails’ app, to live video streaming of railway kitchens to revamped meals and vending machines – here are top 5 recent measures the Indian Railways catering arm IRCTC is taking to make passengers happy:
1) Use of Artificial Intelligence: IRCTC is making use of Artificial Intelligence in order to serve hygienic food to railway passengers. Under a new Artificial Intelligence vision detection system, high definition cameras, connected to huge monitors, have been set up at 16 IRCTC base kitchens, so far. The system by using Artificial Intelligence will track down any rodents, cockroaches or any strange objects in any of the base kitchens. The CCTV system also tracks any anomalies such as staff not wearing caps etc. Once the system tracks down any peculiarity, it will notify the issue to the server which will then send a report to the mobile of the concerned official. The ticket based system keeps a track of whether the complaint has been addressed or not. It is this very feed of the 16 kitchens that Piyush Goyal has said will be streamed live for everyone on the IRCTC website.
2) ‘Menu on Rails’ app: To keep a check on any instance of overcharging on the Indian Railways network, IRCTC has launched a ‘Menu on Rails’ app. The app allows passengers to check the menu options on various Indian Railways trains and stations and their prices. The ‘Menu on Rails’ app, which has been introduced with the idea to prevent caterers from overcharging, will display menu to passengers travelling in Mail and Express trains including, Shatabdi, Rajdhani, Duronto, Humsafar, Gatiman and Tejas. The charges for various items in the meal are also available on the website for passengers to check.
3) Revamped meals: With a focus on better quality, IRCTC has decided to reduce the quantity and variety of food that it serves to passengers. IRCTC is all set to introduce new dinner as well as lunch meals for passengers across 26 Rajdhani Express and Duronto Express trains, July onwards. Under the new menu, soup and sandwitches would be done away with. The quantity of dal and chicken would be reduced and the variety of chicken would be boneless. In trains where more than one full meal is to be served, the second meal will have egg curry and kofta.
Not only that, in a first for an Indian Railways train, IRCTC installed a food-cum-beverage vending machine in the newly introduced UDAY Express train between Bengaluru and Coimbatore.
4) Food packaging and serving: In a bid to go eco-friendly way, the national transporter has recently started serving food to passengers in biodegradable bagasse bowls on several Shatabdi Express trains, and meals in biodegradable trays in Rajdhani Express trains. The step has been taken to minimize non-biodegradable waste like plastic and aluminium. After the successful completion of the trials, the biodegradable bowls and trays will be introduced to all Shatabdi, Rajdhani and Duranto Express trains in the coming months. Additionally, meal trolleys, as well as an announcement system during meal times, are also being considered by IRCTC in its attempt to improve the catering service across the railway network. Not only that, IRCTC is also equipping each of these meal trolleys with sanitizers.
5) Catering: IRCTC e-catering is being expanded and reputed aggregators and vendors are being roped in to ensure timely delivery of orders. Optional catering is progressively being introduced in more trains and base kitchens are being expanded.
A few months ago Indian Railways had announced that food items would be provided for free to passengers if the vendor is unable to furnish a bill at the time of purchase. Point of Sale (PoS) machines are being used in several trains to avoid vendors from charging extra.