Chennai: No food stalls at key railway stations

Lack of food stalls have left railway passengers at the mercy of restaurants and other food outlets that charge exorbitant rates.

Chennai: Lakhs of rail passengers who walk into busy stations like Chennai Central Suburban, Tambaram and Villivakkam literally go hungry. The food stalls at these stations that see footfall of several lakhs of passengers’ daily are either closed permanently or non-functional due to operational reasons.

Another busy station, Perambur, has only one functional food stall, while it has been more than three years since the large food court at the Chennai Central railway station was removed. Lack of food stalls have left railway passengers at the mercy of restaurants and other food outlets that charge exorbitant rates.

Food stalls at railway stations sell food at much cheaper rates and people flock to such outlets not just because of the cost factor, but due to its quality. However, many stalls at several railway stations in stations are closed due to operational problems. Refreshment stalls at Chennai Central and Chennai Egmore Railway station have also been shut for quite a long time now either due to expiry of contract or contractual violations.

Many important suburban railway stations such as Tirusulam, Perambur Loco Works, Villivakkam and Vyasarpadi have no food stalls, though they see huge footfall during weekdays. A majority of the people from Tiruvallur, Kancheepuram and some parts of Vellore district are dependent on suburban trains to reach Chennai to attend work and go back home.

“They call Tambaram the third biggest railway terminal in Chennai, but I can’t even buy a bottle of water here and the situation has been the same for the past one year. No one has any clue why Tambaram does not have a food stall? What do people do if they are hungry? Are they supposed to starve?” asks V. Ganapathy, a regular commuter through Tambaram railway station.

Officials from the Commercial Department of the Indian Railways say that stalls have been closed down following complaints from passengers about poor food quality.

“We float tenders even before the expiry of term but at times, they are delayed. Contractors also delay the work, but we are closely monitoring it and will sort them out soon. As it is a long procedure, it might take some time,” a senior official said.

“We are students and can’t afford eating at restaurants daily. We can have a meal at just Rs 25, but we only get a coffee worth it in restaurants. Closed food stalls are just not a loss to railways or contractors, but also to us,” said S.Ilavarasan, a college student.

E-catering service not effective
Efforts to avail quality food at a reasonable price from IRCTC, also with the help of its smart phone App, have turned futile with people facing many issues with untimely delivery of food, poor services and low quality.

E-catering service by IRCTC, through which a passenger can pre-order meals before a train is scheduled to arrive at a station, was launched to help passengers have healthy food.

The food is prepared in IRCTC kitchens and is distributed using staff of the hospitality department and delivered at the seats of passengers. However, this does not seem to work well as only around 6,000-7,000 meals are being served monthly in Tamil Nadu, considerably low for such a large railway network.

Railway officials attribute the reasons to network issues and ignorance among people. “It is difficult for people to access the websites due to network problems, but we are checking on those grounds and planning to upgrade it as soon as possible,” he added.

E-catering takes a back seat not only on technological grounds, but also lacks human resources to deliver the food. Board vendors have to be deployed, but contractors don’t seem interested to spare money for that. “We are not hired on a regular basis, but only if they need it for the orders received. We can’t work temporarily and be available only when they want. After all, it is us who has to deal with the grievances of the people on the spot,” said Krishna Kumar, a vendor with Southern Railway.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
Next Story