NEW DELHI: Two years after it was launched, there are few takers for Indian Railways’ e-catering service, which aims to provide quality food of greater variety to passengers. The online service, which features more than 500 restaurants and fast food chains at over 310 stations, has failed to enthuse passengers, and accounts for less than one per cent of the meals provided by the railways.
The e-catering service was started in September 2015 with a focus on increasing food options for passengers. The railways’ public sector undertaking, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), which manages online catering, has tied up with several fast food chains, including Pizza Hut, McDonald’s and Dominos, and known restaurant chains such as Pind Baluchi, Haldiram’s, Rajdhani, Wimpy and Delhi Durbar. Besides the IRCTC website, passengers can order food using mobile apps such as foodpanda and zoop.
According to the railways, the e-catering service picked up from 400 meals a day in October 2015 to a peak of nearly 12,000 meals a day in August 2017, but has been falling since, with only about 5,000 meals a day booked in December 2017.
Post-demonetisation, in November last year, IRCTC launched several offers and a cash refund scheme to encourage passengers to buy meals online, but that seems to have made no difference.
The main reason for the lukewarm response from passengers is doubt about whether the food would be delivered on time during the journey. “Feedback from passengers shows that they also have concerns about the quality and quantity of the food. Their major concern is surety of delivery of food in trains,” said the official.
The railways have also introduced optional catering services on Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duronto and Gatiman trains, in which catering is managed by IRCTC.
The railways provide 12 lakh meals every day
About 10 lakh meals are provided through pantry cars
2 lakh meals are provided through static catering units at railway stations
Only about 7,000 meals are provided through e-catering
The e-catering service picked up from 400 meals a day in October 2015 to nearly 12,000 meals a day in August 2017, but has been falling since