BENGALURU: It could be months before passengers can hope for quality food on some of the premium trains in the Bengaluru railway division. The CAG report last week had come down heavily on the Railways for serving food in trains and at stations which it said was “unfit for human consumption”.
The new Railway catering policy mandates handing over of all catering activity on trains and stations back to the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) by the end of December 2017. The process of handover has already begun at a few stations, said an IRCTC official.
“Catering on Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains will be given priority. The Railways is likely to formally hand over the catering contract for the Chennai-Mysuru Shatabdi (Train no. 12007) to the IRCTC by Monday,” the official added.
The catering contract for the Chennai Central-Mysuru Shatabdi Express is set to be terminated over food quality issues. A show cause notice has already been issued to the contractor, said a top Railway source. The contractor prepares food for supply on the train from base kitchens in Bengaluru and Chennai. However, it appears that it would take up to at least six months for the food supplied on the Chennai-Mysuru Shatabdi to taste better.
A top IRCTC official said, “Initially, we will still have to make use of the same base kitchens used by the licencee. We will later negotiate with the Railways and identify space to set up IRCTC base kitchens. This could take anywhere between 3 and 6 months,” the official added. Katpadi and Chennai Central were being looked as suitable locations for IRCTC base kitchens, he added.
Priyamvadha Viswanathan, Chief Commerical Manager of IRCTC, Southern Railway, said, “It is not just the Mysuru Shatabdi. We have also issued such notices to the contractor of Mangla Express (Chennai to Delhi) and a licencee running a food stall at Ernakulam over food issues.”
Asked about the scene in the Bengaluru Railway Division, IRCTC Deputy General Manager for Bengaluru region, B Ramesh, said, “We have taken over the catering in the Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains running in the division in 2016. The process of identifying the base kitchens is under way at many stations. The quality of food is set to improve after all the infrastructure is in place,”
Meanwhile, after the recent incident of a lizard found in the food supplied by contractors on Poorva Express came to light, Railway Board Chairman A K Mittal advised passengers to bring home-cooked food when travelling on trains. The comment generated much criticism online.