Coming, food choices on trains

Passengers on Rajdhanis and Shatabdis could soon have the option of choosing from a menu on board rather than having to eat a fixed-menu meal. And it will be mandatory for all passengers of Sleeper class to carry some photo ID.

The decisions, made on Thursday, were announced by Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal on his first visit to his constituency Chandigarh after beginning his new assignment.

The current system of serving fixed-menu meals resulted in wastage, Bansal said. Officials at his ministry in Delhi said the food served on board also did not need to carry the burden of various concessions offered to passengers on ticket fares. Also, passengers who did not want to eat need to be forced pay for the food, the price of which is currently bundled with the fare.

"I have asked for the proposals to be worked out. Passengers will be allowed to decide whether they want food or not. They will also be able to select the items they want from a menu. This will reduce the price of the ticket and also prevent wastage," Bansal said.

"If items like packaged juice, which costs Rs 15, or toffees which are distributed in large numbers, are removed from the menu, money will be saved. Alternatives can be found for expensive items like tea bags," he said.

Railway ministry officials explained that unbundling the price of food from the fare could lead to the rationalisation of food prices which have remained unchanged since 2002. Currently, a New Delhi-Sealdah Rajdhani AC-3 ticket costs Rs 1,592 excluding service tax. Senior citizens pay half, Rs 796. But now, the 50 per cent concession could be available only on the base fare, which in this case is Rs 1,200. The remaining Rs 392 — which includes the cost of food and other charges — would have to be paid in full by all passengers.

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