The railways will now open food plaza, fast food units and multi-cuisine restaurants, taking over from its catering arm IRCTC, in a bid to generate non-fare revenue, according to an order issued by the Railway Board.
The Indian Railway Tourism and Catering Corporation (IRCTC), which is responsible for serving food on board trains and in its static units, was set up primarily to segregate non-rail works from the railways, whose primary job is to run trains.
With the IRCTC failing to set up such units, causing huge losses in revenue for the railways, it has now been decided to hand over this responsibility to zonal railways.
The order, dated March 8, has given permission to the 17 zonal railways to use vacant space at stations for such units.
“Setting up of food plaza/fast food units/multicuisine restaurants by Zonal Railways at the vacant/non-utilised space available at railway stations… References have been received from Zonal Railways seeking permission to operate major static units (Food Plazas, Fast Food Units and Multi Cuisine restaurants) in view of the fact that many spaces allotted to IRCTC have continued to remain vacant thus leading to non-provision of passenger service and loss of railway revenue, the order stated.
Sources indicate that as many as 100-150 such static units are planned to be set up by the zonal railways.
Officials in the know suggest that the IRCTC has been unable to set up these food courts primarily because of high licence fee, high rate of rail land and wrong choice of place for setting up such units as stipulated in the catering policy of 2017. Sources indicate that a review of the policy is currently underway.
The order has further stated that general managers of zonal railways conduct review of sites for major catering units that have been vacant for one year or more and set up food outlets with provision of local or regional cuisine.
“The sites being taken over from IRCTC may follow due process of coordination and take into consideration the terms and conditions of existing contracts/agreements, if any. The Food Plazas/FFU/Multicuisine restaurant will be allotted through open tender process for a period of nine years as stipulated within the Catering Policy 2017, it said.