The railways are on the verge of opening up the Rs. 2,000 crore train food market to e-caterers, a move that would spell good news for train passengers. An e-catering policy of the railways is in the making, which will legitimise activities relating to the booking or delivery of meals online.
A number of online portals are already in the business such as Travelkhana.com, Merafoodchoice.com and Idlywada.com, which have tie-ups with over 300 restaurants across the country to serve meals at an estimated 180 railway stations.
Since online caterers have not paid any license fee and are not recognized by the public transporter, such operations have not been regularised yet. “Issues such as pricing and monitoring of the quality of food are being deliberated. The new plan to regularise such operations will be rolled out within two months,” a senior official said.
Railway minister DV Sadananda Gowda is understood to have held detailed discussions with officials on the proposal.
Travelkhana.com — which claims to serve 1,500 daily meals — plans to expand the business through franchisees with restaurants in different cities and online tour operators. The portal claims to have already served meals to 3,83,921 train passengers.
Some catering portals are also offering services for the supply of emergency medicines such as insulin injections for diabetics.
Exiting from the catering business is among the options being considered by the railways. “The railways must focus on its tasks as a transporter and go in for a hassle-free approach by permitting online booking of meals without charging a license fee from service providers. It is impossible for the railways to deliver, monitor or take responsibility of the quality of food served,” sections feel.