IRCTC installs first-of-its-kind Automatic Food Vending Machine in UDAY Express; how it works

COIMBATORE: Travelling on an Indian Railways and want to munch on chips or biscuits? IRCTC has good news for you! In a move that is likely to delight passengers, IRCTC has for the first time in a train installed a tablet-operated automatic food vending machine. This new machine has been put in the newly introduced Coimbatore-Bengaluru UDAY Express.

The automatic food vending machine offers a variety of quick-to-eat snacks and beverages such as biscuits, chips/Kurkure-type packaged eatables and canned juices, aerated drinks, tea/coffee. These automatic food vending machines have been installed in the mini-pantry-cum-dining areas of three coaches on the new UDAY Express double-decker train.

The new train has been introduced keeping in mind the comfort needs of business travellers. While train number 22666 Coimbatore-Bengaluru UDAY Express train will take 7 hours from Coimbatore to Bengaluru, train number 22665 Bengaluru-Coimbatore UDAY Express train will take 6 hours and 45 minutes from Bengaluru to Coimbatore.

The passengers on UDAY Express can place their order using the tablet and the machine dispenses food/coffee after the payment has been made. Initially only cash payment will be accepted, but going ahead the option of cashless transactions will also be available.

The process is fairly simple: the passenger can choose the list of items available on the tablet and add them to the cart. Once the payment has been made, the machine automatically dispenses the items. In case the passenger chooses tea/coffee, the ordered beverage pours out of the left-hand side of the machine.

A variant of this automatic vending machine is also installed in the all AC-3 tier Humsafar Express trains of Indian Railways. However, the machines in Humsafar Express only dispense beverages. The automatic food vending machine requires more space, something that is not available in most sleeper coaches of Indian Railways. UDAY Express, on the other hand, is a double-decker AC chair car, hence space is not a constraint.

IRCTC has been experimenting with new ways to ensure good quality standards for the food that it serves on trains.

Recently, in an eco-friendly measure, it was decided that food on premium trains like Rajdhanis and Shatabdis will be served in bio-degradable containers. Also, to prevent vendors from overcharging passengers, Indian Railways in introducing POS (Point-of-Sale) machines in trains and it has been mandated that all food items should have MRP (Maximum Retail Price) printed on them.

Additionally, IRCTC is making use of artificial intelligence to monitor its kitchens on a real-time basis with the help of high-tech cameras.

Apart from food vending machine, the newly-introduced UDAY Express is also equipped with a host of new features such as infotainment system, with wi-fi, GPS-based passenger information system and an exclusive dining area for passengers. Double-decker UDAY Express, which was flagged-off on Friday, will run between Coimbatore and Bengaluru.

The Indian Railways has taken several initiatives to make passenger service better during train journey. Last week, the IRCTC launched its trial run of environment-friendly, bagasse-based food packaging on eight select Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains originating from New Delhi.

The IRCTC will now use bagasse — the fibrous remains after extracting sugarcane juice — to make disposable cutlery and containers, in which meals will be served.

Calling the initiative a small step to beat plastic pollution, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal in a tweet said that the Indian Railways has started using fully biodegradable packages in 4 Shatabdi and 4 Rajdhani trains from Delhi, contributing towards a greener planet.

In the coming months, the railways aims to introduce the bagasse-based packaging on all the Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duranto trains in the coming months.

Earlier, the Indian Railways overhauled its ticketing website to ensure better user experience. The new IRCTC website has more user friendly features for easier navigation. On new website, users can now enquire / search trains and check availability of seats without login.

It also has class-wise, train-wise, destination-wise, departure/arrival time wise and quota-wise filters for facilitating customers while planning their journeys.

To enhance user’s booking experience, the Railways has also introduced waitlist prediction- a feature that will predict the probability of a Waitlisted or RAC ticket getting confirmed. This technique uses algorithm based on historical booking trends of the particular train.