Soon you may have more choice, better food on trains

Unhappy with the food served on trains, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has decided to bring in new caterers and award contracts with fresh terms and conditions in the next three months.

To break the present cartel of a handful of catering vendors who have been controlling food supply to over 302 long-distance trains for decades, the new contract conditions will limit the number of trains one catering company can serve. The new standard bidding documents will include an enhanced licence fee and revised tariff.

As a result, the food on Rajdhanis, Shatabdis and Durontos may see a drastic change next year.

In a letter to all 17 zonal railways this week, Bansal directed the general managers to conduct 'Passenger Opinion Surveys' and "personally monitor" the award of contracts.

"Immediate action must be initiated so as to ensure supply of good quality and hygienic food," Bansal wrote. "I expect that you shall personally monitor the award of contracts and setting up of mechanised and modern base kitchens... including service through trolleys."

The Railway Minister also directed a new menu, with more variety, for food served at stations by catering vendors, known in the Railways as "static units".

"It is noticed that despite the issue of instructions of allotment/renewal of such units, there has been no progress," he wrote.

Officials said that food complaints figured high during every inspection made by the minister anywhere in the country. There have been written complaints about taste, hygiene and even quantity of the food served.

One of the problems has been that the prices of the food served on trains has not been revised for a decade. That is set to change.

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