After numerous complaints about the sale of packaged drinking water from unidentified brands on railway stations and trains, the ministry of railways has finally expedited the plan to set up its own packaged drinking water bottling plant.
The railways had decided to set up packaged drinking water bottling plants on Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer (DBFOT) basis and were seeking proposals from interested private parties for the same. The plan was meant to be implemented in March this year. "We started accepting proposals but the project got delayed as there were a few technical difficulties. We have sorted these out and the project is expected to begin in January 2012. We have been receiving many complaints about the quality of water supplied at the station and have thus fast tracked the project," said a senior official from the railway ministry.
Of the six designated plants, one will be built at Nashik . Each plant will be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs20 crore. Land belonging to the railways will be used for setting up the bottling plant. The private party roped in for the project will look after all the other construction. Each plant will have the capacity to produce 8,500 cartons, with 12 bottles each, in a day.
"The water will be treated using ultra filtration and reverse osmosis technology, to ensure that commuters get clean and safe drinking water. It will be sold under the Rail Neer brand name," the official added.
Currently, unrecognised brands are openly sold in trains and stations. Jayesh Kini, a Thane resident said: "Often, bottled water from unheard brands like Aquapeena and Bizzy are sold on long-distance trains. The packaging is very similar to that of reputed brands. The railways should not have delayed this project. The current practice is unsafe and railways caters to a huge number of commuters."
Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC), which monitors the authorisation of brands to be sold on trains and stations, claims that it carries out inspections regularly. "We have given a list of authorised brands which should be sold on railway premises. Our officers often inspect stations and penalise stall owners and pantry car contractors.