Get a flight-like feel on Vande Bharat soon

The Railway Board said that the pilot initiative was aimed at enhancing passenger experience, providing greater choice, and ensuring ease of travel

November 26, 2023 12:00 am | Updated 12:48 pm IST - CHENNAI

There will be concierge services, greater choice in food and beverages as well as sale of essentials on Vande Bharat Express trains on Southern Railway routes.

There will be concierge services, greater choice in food and beverages as well as sale of essentials on Vande Bharat Express trains on Southern Railway routes. | Photo Credit: M. Moorthy

The travel experience in Vande Bharat trains is set to scale greater heights with the Indian Railways rolling out a new scheme to upgrade passenger services. As part of its initiative to bring about a qualitative shift in on-board services, the Railways has announced the launch of Yatri Seva Anubandh (YSA) as a pilot project in the Southern Railway covering six pairs of Vande Bharat Express trains.

In a note, the Railway Board said that the pilot initiative was aimed at enhancing passenger experience, providing greater choice in food and beverages, and ensuring ease of travel by offering additional value-added services to passengers such as concierge services, on-board infotainment and access to travel essentials and accessories. The objective was to steer a change in the focus towards service outcomes through passenger driven performance appraisal system and holistic evaluation of the services provided.

Under the new scheme, the Railways would provide concierge services such as cab arrival/departure, wheelchair and buggy drive assistance to passengers at originating/destination stations. On-board infotainment system would ensure seamless transmission of quality content in compliance with the laws pertaining to data protection, broadcasting, intellectual property rights, etc. 

The Railways have laid special emphasis on onboard cleanliness. A service provider with a proven track record in catering, housekeeping etc will be appointed for implementing YSA. The contractor would deploy one housekeeping person in each coach and such personnel should have been trained from institutions accredited under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana or by the All India Institute of Local Self Government, New Delhi, or any other government recognised training institute in cleaning/hospitality/housekeeping work. 

No beef and pork 

An exclusive food menu would be offered to passengers with a variety of dishes both for pre-paid on board delivery or a la carte services at reasonable and comparable market rates. Food would be prepared and sourced from ISO-certified base kitchens covered by CCTV and food packs affixed with QR codes. Apart from ordering on board, passengers would also have the option to order prepaid meals at the time of booking ticket or through the Yatri Seva app. Beef and pork shall not be used in any form in any of the food items. 

To ensure quality in service, the Railways have laid a condition that the contractor should have at least one person possessing Graduation/Diploma in Hospitality/Hotel Management/Catering from a deployed in each train exclusively for Food & Beverage services. The YSA Manager would  be a graduate having three years working experience in the hospitality industry.

The upgraded service also comes with on-board sale of travel essentials and the contractor would also have the freedom to sell any other product except those prohibited under law. There would be no sale of tobacco products and alcoholic drinks.

Vande Bharat trains are operated in Southern Railway along the Chennai-Mysore, Chennai-Tirunelveli, Chennai-Coimbatore, Thiruvananthapuram-Kasargod and Chennai-Vijayawada routes. It is not clear which the sixth route will be yet.

“Vande Bharat is a game-changer train for Indian Railways. With the introduction of YSA, we will be taking on board services to world-class standards. The passengers would have an enjoyable experience comparable to the aviation industry, be it hospitality, quality of food or travel comforts. We are happy that the pilot project is being implemented in Southern Railway…the first Vande Bharat was designed, developed and rolled out from Integral Coach Factory, Chennai,” a senior railway official told The Hindu on Saturday.

To ensure quality of food, the Railways said one of the contractor conditions for catering was that the bidder should have a minimum average workforce of 1,800 employees with at least 900 of them engaged in food and beverage and/or housekeeping services in the last fiscal. This criteria would be ascertained based on audit reports and provident fund contributions. 

Also, the bidder should own at least one operational ISO 22000-2005 certified base kitchen in Chennai with capacity to produce at least 1,500 meals per day and proof of supplying 90,000 meals in any of the four preceding quarters in 2022-23.

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