New Delhi: Aiming to provide good quality food to passengers, the Railways are planning to do away with cooking arrangements in pantry cars and setting up 250 base kitchens across the country to prepare about six lakh meals and snacks per day.
There will be base kitchens at all major stations including New Delhi, Nizamuddin, Old Delhi, Howrah, Patna, Mumbai, Bhubaneswar and other originating stations and junctions where meals will be prepared in hygenic conditions, said a senior Railway Ministry official involved with catering service.
"Pantry cars in trains will be no longer utilised for preparing foods and instead they will used for storing meals and snacks prepared in base kitchens," he said, adding "Only hot beverages like tea, coffee and soup will be prepared in pantry cars."
There are 302 mail and express trains having pantry cars for preparing and serving food to onboard passengers.
Currently, the Railways provide about six lakh meals and snacks in a day to passengers including 91,000 meals being served in Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi trains.
"The aim is to provide quality, hygienic food to the passengers," he said, and added, "The base kitchens will be set up on railway land near the stations."
The Railway will give land at a nominal fee of Rs 1 per sq feet to caterers for setting up base kitchens.
The total volume of food business in the Railways is estimated to be around Rs 2000 crore a year.
Meanwhile, the Railways are finalising a common bidding format across the country for providing branded food items.
The national transporter will empanel brands for certain items and make it mandatory for caterers to invest in base kitchens.
The bidding norms have provisions to prevent only a few catering firms from cornering a large share of business.
The bidding in catering service is expected to begin by May this year.