CHENNAI: Over two months have passed since the food plaza on the main concourse of Chennai Central railway station was closed after a new tender was awarded. The work is yet to take off, apparently due to a difference of opinion between Southern Railway and Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).
This has inconvenienced passengers during the summer rush, forcing them to crowd the other, smaller plazas and eateries.
The facility was shut down for renovation in February and the stalls demolished. Officials had then said these would be opened in 2-4 months. However, despite the deadline approaching, the re-opening has been delayed allegedly because of an issue raised by Southern Railways with IRCTC.
According to multiple sources at senior levels, the re-opening was stuck as the zonal railway wanted to shift the plaza to another location inside Central as the present location hindered free passenger movement.
“The daily footfalls have risen exponentially when compared to a decade ago when the spot was earmarked as a plaza. We need space for free movement of passengers,” a railway official said.
Sources say this issue was raised by SR only after IRCTC awarded the tender, more than a year after it was floated. Though the land belongs to SR, IRCTC identifies the vendors through tenders. The tender was awarded to a popular restaurant group in Chennai for Rs 8 crore a year for 12 years. However, SR holds all the cards as the plaza can only go on stream after they approve the building plans. Express learnt that IRCTC zonal officials did not agree with SR on relocation as the tender had already been awarded. They contend that SR could have notified the plans to shift the location before the tender was awarded. SR seems to be firm, with officials saying IRCTC should have approached them officially before the tender was floated. This has made IRCTC officials anxious though they declined to comment on the issue.
This delay means long distance passengers during the summer rush will not have choice on food and beverages at Chennai Central as the other stalls are small.
“The stalls at the plaza were very helpful during the summer season when tourists thronged the station. They offered a variety of traditional as well as fast food, but now passengers have to face the hardship,” said MP Anwar, Confederation of All India Rail Users Association. “Compared to on-train catering, the plaza offered high quality food. Late evening and early morning passengers will suffer the most because of the closure,” said activist T Sadagopan.