After 10 years, food on trains to get costlier

The price of the food served on trains will finally see an upward revision after a gap of almost a decade as Railway Minister Pawan Bansal is learnt to have given an in-principle approval to the move to be effected next year.

For the sake of better quality, Railways has been aiming to increase the stipulated rates of the food items served on trains so that catering vendors do not cut on quality or quantity to have a viable margin.

But the move has always been stalled by earlier political dispensations heading the Railway Ministry, especially the Trinamool Congress, which presided over it in the past few years.

Now the process to work out a 15-25 per cent increase in the prices has received a green signal. This proposal was rejected by Bansal's predecessor Mukul Roy.

The price of standard menu for ordinary mail/express trains (trains excluding the Rajdhanis, Shatabdis and Durontos where food prices are part of the fares) have not risen since 2003.

Additionally, the new Railway Minister has also given directions to make sure that the catering vendors serving on Rajdhanis and such trains are now contractually bound to provide food to passengers whenever trains are stranded or delayed due to various reasons.

Conditions set in the new tenders to be floated early next year will provide for a "cushion" to vendors to offset this kind of unforeseen losses. In winter, for instance, the delays are usually due to fog in northern India.

Catering vendors have been demanding increase in the rates citing inflationary pressure over the years. Many vendors including their associations have been giving representations to the ministry that at prices fixed a decade ago, retaining the prescribed quantity and the quality of the food was becoming unviable.

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