Rail Neer sales mandated in Suburban Trains, Rail Meals become pocket-friendly

CHENNAI: Cracking the whip on unauthorised sale of private water bottles at railway stations and trains, the railways has made it mandatory that IRCTC should provide affordable Rail Neer bottles at foods stalls in major railway stations and select trains.The direction was issued by railway board a few days ago in the backdrop of repeated complaints that passengers were forced to purchase water bottles manufactured by private companies while at stations and during train journeys for Rs 35 to Rs 50 a litre. This was because there was lack of supply of Rail Neer.

Particularly, passengers in night trains and premium trains were fleeced with water bottles which sold for Rs 70 to Rs 80 a bottle, while Rail Neer water bottle was just Rs 15 a litre.

According to the directive, as many as 18 major stations in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh had been chosen for mandatory supply of Rail Neer throughout the year, while seven stations will have the product during non peak seasons.

Chennai Central, Chennai Egmore, Chennai suburban stations, Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, Villupuram, Salem, Coimbatore, Erode, Arakkonam, Katpadi, Jolarpet, Vijayawada, Bengaluru, Tirupati, Renigunta and Yeshvantpur have been chosen for mandatory supply of Rail Neer water for 12 months a year, said the board order.  The board estimated that there was a demand of 84,926 litres of water a day at 24 stations.

The per day supply for Chennai Central has been fixed at 12,920 litres, while Chennai Egmore and Coimbatore should be given 4464 and 4378 litres of water a day.This was made possible by railways after Rail Neer Packaged Drinking Water Plant at Palur near Kancheepuram which has been supplying water bottles to major stations in Tamil Nadu and select stations in Karnataka and Andhra has increased its production.

Rail meals become pocket-friendly

Prices of food and drinks sold in trains by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) have been slashed by Rs 3 to Rs 10 with the Centre reducing GST on the items from 18 per cent to five per cent.Catering charges in premium trains also will see a cut by Rs 40 to Rs 60 per ticket depending on the class of travel from April 16.According to the revised rates of food items sold by IRCTC authorised vendors in Express and superfast trains which came into effect from Monday, price of medu vada has come down to Rs 19 as against the earlier Rs 22.

The price of egg biriyani has been slashed to Rs 61 from Rs 69. Cost of chicken biriyani has reduced to Rs 89 as against the earlier Rs 100. Price of masal dosa has come down to Rs 18 from Rs 21.

Similarly, prices of variety rice items, including tamarind rice, lemon rice, curd rice, veg noodles, sambar rice, tomato/vegetable soup, samosa, vegetable cutlet, masala vada, medu vada and masal  dosa also have come down by Rs 2 to Rs 4 per unit.

The change would also reduce the ticket fares in premium trains which are so far collected at 18 per cent GST on catering charges. “Catering charges and GST are collected along with ticket fare in premium trains. Since GST on catering charges has been reduced to five per cent, the ticket fare may  get reduced by Rs20 to Rs60 a ticket depending upon the class of travel and distance. It will be implemented from April 16, “ railway board order stated.The food items and beverages sold in mobile units (trains) and static units (food stalls in station) of IRCTC suffered with 18 per cent GST since July 2017. The GST led to increase in prices by `five to Rs25 on all food items.

However, food items listed under the control segment of IRCTC including tea, coffee, tea in pots, Rail Neer, Janata Meal (economy meal) and Standard Breakfast have been kept away from the ambit of GST and the prices remain unchanged. On November 11 last year, the government reduced GST on food items sold in railway stations to five per cent, while keeping GST rate at 18 percent for catering in trains.