New Delhi: Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Railways, has introduced a lot of initiatives that will benefit the Retail industry relating to food catering, eCommerce and home service.
Benefitting food industry:
To provide freedom to passengers to select their meals from an array of choices including local cuisine, e-catering has been introduced in 108 trains on an experimental basis from January this year.
Food can be ordered through the IRCTC website at the time of booking of tickets. He said, the Railways is working to integrate the best food chains of the country into this project.
Depending on the response from the customers, the facility will be extended to cover more trains. It is also intended to set up Base Kitchens in specified Divisions to be run by highly credible agencies for serving quality food.
IRCTC has recently joined hands with with Jubilant Food Works, the parent company of Domino's Pizza, on a trial basis, to deliver pizza across 12 stations.
The passengers can also send an SMS ("MEAL <PNR>" at 139). List of E-catering trains is available at website. The scheme is being extended to more and more trains.
Initially the services will be offered by Domino's Pizza at twelve stations including, Agra Cantt. (AGC),Alwar, Jaipur, Ambala, Jalandhar Cantt, Mathura Junction, Muzzafar Nagar, New Delhi, Pathankot Cantt, VAPI, Bharuch and Vadodara.
IRCTC has already started e-catering services on a specific section (Delhi - Amritsar), on a trial basis, from 25th September 2014, in non-pantry car trains.
E-catering facility has been extended to 120 trains, and more number of trains is being added to the list every few days.
Presenting his first railway budget, Prabhu, brought a cheer to the common man by not announcing any increase in passenger fares.
Empowering eCommerce industries
The Minister said in the parliament that Railways is introducing 'Operation Five Minutes' to ensure that a passenger travelling unreserved can purchase a ticket within five minutes.
Provision of modified 'hot-buttons', coin vending machines and 'single destination teller' windows will drastically reduce the transaction time.
A mobile app for round-the-clock safety of women passengers is on the anvil. In addition, an "SMS Alert" service to inform passengers in advance the updating arrival/departure time of trains at starting or destination stations.
A centrally managed Railway Display Network is expected to be introduced in over 2,000 stations over the next two years which will aid in providing information on train arrival/departure, reservations, general and emergency messages and also any other information of interest to citizens.
This facility will promote "Digital India Campaign" and also unlock huge advertising revenue potential. Surveillance cameras will be provided on a pilot basis in selected mainline coaches and ladies' compartments of suburban coaches without compromising on privacy. Moreover, Indian Railways' Delhi Division is taking up a project for introducing on-board entertainment on select Shatabdi trains on license fee basis.
Now, 200 more stations are to come under Adarsh Station scheme; Wi - Fi to be provided at B category stations; facility of self-operated lockers will be available at stations.
For the differently-abled travellers, a special initiative is being launched whereby they can purchase concessional e-tickets after one-time registration. The Minister said, it is also proposed to work towards developing a multi-lingual e-ticketing portal. He said, the Railways will move towards crediting all refunds through the banking system.
Prabhu said, in Central Railway, Western Railway and Southern Railway suburban sections, a pilot project of issuing unreserved tickets on smart phones has already started. The Minister expressed hope that this facility will be extended progressively to all stations.
Automatic ticket vending machines with smart cards and currency options have also been installed at many stations.
It is proposed to proliferate this further and also to introduce debit card operated machines.
Introduction of integrated ticketing system on the lines of rail-cum-road tickets on Jammu - Srinagar route will be expanded.
Spurring Home service industry:
In order to make travel on Indian Railways a happy experience, the Budget has given thrust on Cleanliness and proposes a new department for keeping stations and trains clean under Swachh Rail Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Toilets will be maintained and newer fittings installed. Around 17,000 existing toilets will be replaced by bio-toilets and new toilets will be constructed in 650 stations. Vacuum toilets, where waste is cleaned using air instead of water, are also being designed, he said. Environment-friendly waste-to-energy conversion plants will be set up near major coaching terminals.
The Railways will launch a programme to improve design, quality and cleanliness of bed linen within the next six months. The Minister said that the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Delhi, has been approached for designing bed linen.
Additionally, the facility of online booking of disposable bedrolls at select stations is being extended to all passengers through the IRCTC portal on payment basis. The Railways will also increase the number of mechanized laundries, the Minister added.