Central Railway authorities meet pantry car contractors to discuss public complaints about cleanliness inside pantry cars and overcharging of food provided to passengers
Following the Union Railway Minister's promise of improving the pantry and food services in long distance trains, the Central Railway (CR) authorities headed by Sunil Kumar Sood, the General Manager of CR, addressed a meeting of pantry car contractors. This was done in the wake of major public complaints about cleanliness inside pantry cars and overcharging of food provided to passengers. Soon, passengers will also get mandatorily bills from a hand-held billing machine.
Sood in his address expressed his concern on two items based on the analysis of complaints and feedback from the passengers viz. overcharging on eatables and quality of food items.
"Instead of preparing food in the Pantry Car the licensees should pick up readymade meals either from the Railway Base Kitchen at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or from the Cell Kitchen which can be set up," said Sood.
This modern cell kitchen can be on the same pattern as that Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus kitchen which was recently set up by CR. For this purpose, he suggested that only Store Rooms should be locked by individual contractors and the kitchen hall at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus should be shared by all of them. This will reduce the cost and increase the quality of cooking.
On success of Lokmanya Tilak Terminus Cell kitchen, similar facility can be created at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus also.
To overcome the problem of overcharging, the GM advised that contractors use hand-held terminals for billing purpose. He suggested that the instruments would make it easy for pantry car staff to issue bills to each passenger at the end of journey. The instrument is handy and pre-fed with train numbers, tax rates and menu rates. This instrument will be linked with a server by which billing of each train will be duplicated for monitoring as soon as train touches a networked area. These SIM-based, handheld terminals will be issued by CR on refundable deposit. Their use was demonstrated to all pantry car operators.
The officials also suggested the provision of food trolleys in each coach that will keep food warm for 3 to 4 hours and will be convenient to serve the meals. Enabling provisions for extra hands to board the train from base kitchen stations along with trolleys only during meal hours was requested by Pantry operators and agreed upon.
To maintain the quality of food, raw materials checking system has already been started at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. In the system, each pantry car manager lays out all the raw materials to the staff deputed on the booth, who checks the perishables, rice, pulses, eatables, oils and only good quality materials are allowed to be loaded in the pantry car and any inferior quality item is removed or replaced.
Also to overcome the problems of unauthorised vending the pantry car contractors agreed to carry variety of pre-cooked snacks, which can be sold immediately on the train till the passengers wait for their regular meals. Use of prepaid coupons or Combo Options along with PRS ticketing was also discussed. GM also desired that the pantry car should be completely vacated at the destination for the purpose of carrying out pest control, cleanliness etc. and in future RO plant to be installed inside the Pantry Car for preparing tea and food. Till such time it is done, use of Mineral Water shall continue.
Awarding Comprehensive Annual Maintenance Contract of all pantry car equipment to a single PAN-India presence, Contractor who will accept complaints from mobile phones of Managers of Pantry Cars directly and for satisfactory repairs also.
Idea of converting one of the four bathrooms into mini-pantries and using food trolleys from base kitchens was also discussed in view of shortage of pantry cars.
ID cards shall be issued to Pantry Car staff separately for unloading and loading at stations, travel in pantry cars throughout and for part time boarding the trains with base kitchen meals in trolleys during meal hours.