Indian Railways to redesign pantry cars, IRCTC gets free hand to take over kitchens

Nov 08, 2018, 08:22 IST | Rajendra B. Aklekar

Indian Railways to redesign pantry cars on long-distance trains to match international hygiene standards

Indian Railways to redesign pantry cars, IRCTC gets free hand to take over kitchens
Railways decided to reverse its decision to scrap pantry cars after passengers' demands for quality foo

With the Indian Railways reversing its decision to scrap pantry cars aboard trains, the terrifying image of cooks in vests frying on flaming high stoves in unhygienic kitchen coaches might soon change.

It has agreed to Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation's (IRCTC's) proposal of redesigning pantry cars to bring them on par with international standards and improving hygiene and quality of food. Indian Railways has given IRCTC a free hand to take over the train kitchens and convert them, as it pleases, over the next three years. It issued a circular to this effect on Tuesday; mid-day has a copy of it.

There have been repeated complaints over unhygienic conditions of pantry cars in trains
There have been repeated complaints over unhygienic conditions of pantry cars in trains

Cleaner kitchens
Two years ago, the railways had decided to scrap pantry cars and add another passenger coach to boost capacity. But given the repeated complaints and demand for quality food, it decided to reverse its decision. A senior railway official said storage of food items, preparation, cooking and distribution of hygienic food in running trains has always been a challenge for IRCTC, and, in order to take it head on, it had proposed the revamp at an estimated cost of R200-250 crore. He added that IRCTC has also offered to take up the responsibility of maintaining the upgraded pantry cars.

Explaining the process, the official said that because this is a capital-intensive exercise, IRCTC has offered to bear a huge chunk of the cost and proposed a revenue-sharing model with the Indian Railways in the ratio of 85:15, instead of the existing 40:60 as stipulated in the Catering Policy 2017.

Pantry

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Agreeing to alter the ratio, the Railway Board has also okayed IRCTC managing the mobile catering units for a period of five years from the date of launching the redesigned pantry cars into service. The IRCTC is now supposed to redesign, upgrade and maintain the interior of all the redesigned and upgraded pantry cars at its own cost from all aspects, including fire safety and overall security.

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Doctors onboard
Now, you can avail treatment, medicines and other doctor services on trains in emergencies for a nominal fee. The Indian Railways on Tuesday laid down guidelines under which passengers will have to shell out R100 and the cost of medicines, if any, if a doctor is called onboard. A senior official said there have been numerous instances of passengers in medical emergencies being attended to by medical staff onboard because of a tweet or call to the helpline.

Railways' order also mentioned: "The passenger will get a proper receipt for recovery of the consultation fee and charges of medicines or injections, if any. The amount collected will be credited to railway revenue." Besides the helpline, railways is active 24/7 on Twitter, getting nearly 15,000 tweets a day, of which 2,100 are classified as "actionable". While most are about punctuality, cleanliness, non-functional fans or ACs, catering, or harassment, a large number are about medical emergencies.

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