New Delhi: Passengers on India’s vast railway network have long complained of the terrible meals on offer to sustain them on long journeys, but a slew of new services bringing fast food to their seats is changing the way they dine.
From Kentucky Fried Chicken to Domino’s pizza and a host of local delicacies, today’s train passengers have access to a vast array of hot dishes, all at the click of a smartphone app.
For passenger Amit V, who has ordered a vegetarian curry dish to be delivered to his seat, the new services are a godsend after years of buying railway food that he says was often inedible. “This food is 100 times better than the railways food,” the mathematics teacher told AFP as he prepared to board a train for the 19-hour journey from Mathura, a major rail hub in northern India, to his home town in the west of the country.
It is all a far cry from what was on offer just a few years ago, when there were reports of cockroaches being found in dishes, and a leaked internal report said food was cooked in “dirty, smelly and waterlogged pantry cars”.
In one case, the samosas — a popular snack — were kept in a basket with cleaning mops.
There is demand too for a greater variety of options, with customers craving international cuisine, fast food, as well as local fare.
The new services are part of the process of modernising India’s state-owned railway network, which carries around 23 million passengers a day. Asia’s oldest rail network is a lifeline for India’s 1.2 billion people, but is creaking from decades of neglect and chronic unde rinvestment.
Last year the government announced a $137-billion five-year modernisation plan that includes introducing free wifi in some stations in partnership with Google. Google says the service will cover 100 stations by the end of this year, with an eventual target of 400 — a further boost to online food delivery services.