Passengers on India’s vast railway network have long complained of the terrible meals on offer to sustain them on long journeys, but a slew of new services bringing fast food to their seats is changin
Passengers on India’s vast railway network have long complained of the terrible meals on offer to sustain them on long journeys, but a slew of new services bringing fast food to their seats is changing the way they dine.
From Kentucky Fried Chicken to Domino’s pizza and a host of local delicacies, today’s passengers have access to a vast array of hot dishes, all at the click of a smartphone app.
For passenger Amit V., who has ordered a vegetarian curry dish to be delivered to his seat, the new services are a godsend after years of buying railway food that he says was often inedible. “This food is 100 times better than the railways food,” the mathematics teacher told AFP as he prepared to board a train for the 19-hour journey from Mathura, to his hometown in the west of the country.
At Mathura station, deliveryman Aman Singh Badhorie takes it all in his stride. Within two minutes, he pushed his way through an overcrowded carriage to locate his customer’s seat, delivered his order and took payment, leaving him a full 60 seconds to disembark before the train pulls away.
It is all a far cry from what was on offer just a few years ago, when there were reports of cockroaches being found in dishes, and a leaked internal report said food was cooked in “dirty, smelly, waterlogged pantry cars”.
The new services are part of the process of modernising India’s state-owned railway network, which carries around 23 million passengers a day.
Last year the government announced a $137-billion five-year modernisation plan that includes introducing free wifi in some stations in partnership with Google.
Google says the service will cover 100 stations by the end of this year, with an eventual target of 400.
Last year Indian Railways invited major chains to sign up to its e-catering service, which allows passengers to pre-order online or by phone.
The next step will be to set up “base kitchens” in major stations to allow companies to prepare freshly cooked food, railway ministry spokesman Anil Kumar Saxena said.
The key to success is speed — delivery services have just a few minutes to track down their customers before the train leaves the station.