With e-catering being introduced by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), Indian Railways has started withdrawing pantry cars from long-distance trains but this may not go down too well with passengers just yet. Some of the trains from which pantry car services have been withdrawn pass through stations without e-catering services during breakfast, lunch or dinner time. Passengers would either have to carry their food or depend on unscrupulous private caterers for their meals.
Take the instance of the Howrah-Dehradun Upasana Express and the Howrah-Haridwar Kumbha Express. Eastern Railway announced recently that pantry cars on these trains will be discontinued, albeit temporarily, from November. Both trains start from Howrah at 1 pm so lunch is not an issue on the day the journey starts. Passengers can either reach the station after an early lunch or order from Howrah that has e-catering services. Evening snacks can be picked up at Asansol and dinner at Patna as both stations have e-catering facilities.
The trouble would start next afternoon with passengers wanting to order lunch. There are no stations between Lucknow Charbagh and Haridwar or Dehradun that has e-catering facilities. The trains, provided they are running on time, are expected to cross Lucknow Charbagh at 7.30 am. The Upasana Express reaches Dehradun at 6.10 pm while the Kumbha Express reaches Haridwar at 4.05 pm. This means that it would be a struggle for passengers to have lunch unless they prefer cold ones ordered from Lucknow in the morning. “This is a long-time plan of the Indian Railways. The idea is to introduce e-catering at all stations and reduce dependency on private caterers who are in charge of pantry cars. The other reason is to replace the pantry cars with passenger coaches to earn more revenue. However, to make the scheme successful, things will have to be worked out in such a manner that all stations through which important trains pass during meal times have e-catering facilities,” an official said.
Another officer pointed out that it may not be prudent to discontinue pantry cars so soon after introduction of e-catering services. After all, IRCTC has also tied up with private agencies to serve food to passengers at stations as part of the e-catering scheme. There is every possibility of quality of service suffering once the private agencies realize that passengers have no other option. The officer believes that some more time needs to be given for things to work out as per plan.
MPs from Madhya Pradesh demand Better Food in Shatabdi Express
After passengers now parliamentarians have raised red flags over food served on-board Shatabdi Express. MPs asked railway officials to improve food quality in the train.
Bhopal MP Alok Sanjar was vocal about quality of food served in Shatabdi Express. Rajya Sabha MP Anil Madhav Dave also agreed on the Shatabdi food issue and added that basic facilities like drinking water needed to be improved as well.
Sanjar also batted for new trains for Pune, Mumbai, Lucknow, Raipur and Chhapra from Bhopal, increasing frequency of Bhopal-Pratapgarh Express and including Bairagarh station in Bhopal division. Huzur MLA Rameshwar Sharma also submitted memorandum to GM WCR Ramesh Chandra for including the station in Bhopal division.
Dave said that cleanliness of Bhopal station should be made a priority while Rail Neer brand of mineral water should be available in all platforms of WCR.
Hoshangabad MP Uday Pratap Singh suggested opening of base kitchen in Itarsi, MEMU between Bhopal-Itarsi and halt at Itarsi station of Patna-Pune-Patna Express besides better amenities at the station.
Jyoti Dhurve, MP from Betul said drinking water and other passenger amenities should be improved at Khirkiya, Timarni and Harda stations along with a covered shed at Harda. Sagar MP Lakshmi Narayan Yadav asked for Shatabdi Express halt at Bina station.
However, MP’s meeting with railway officials was a no-show as barely 5 out of 15 MPs of Bhopal railway division attended the meeting with West Central Railway (WCR) and division railway officials on Monday at a city hotel.
GM Chandra informed at the meeting that soon financial bid would be invited for redevelopment of Habibganj station while 400 km of Gwalior-Guna-Maksi railway section doubling was under survey.
He said that WCR had registered increase of 11.3% in freight fare earnings, 5.6% in passenger fare earnings and 11% in ticket checking fines compared to last year. Besides, 35 special trains with 945 trips were run in 2014-15 while 2,300 additional coaches were attached to them. An RO water plant of 20,000 litres per hour capacity has also been commissioned at Bhopal station and elevators would soon be available at the station.