An Indian railway worker carries packaged food at a railway station in Bangalore on Feb. 26, 2013. Manjunath Kiran/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Indian Railways is trying to get a makeover.
“We want to improve passenger amenities,” said Suresh Prabhu, India’s new minister for railways, via a video conference at an event organized by the Asia Society in Mumbai Wednesday.
India’s nationalized rail network carries around 30 million passengers a day and has a budget for 2014/15 of 654 billion rupees ($10 billion.)
So what will the new railways look like? Mr. Prabhu gave some clues Wednesday.
Better food: Train travelers have long grumbled about the quality of food served on Indian trains including watery dal (lentil soup) and thick rotis (Indian bread.)
Mr. Prabhu said he’s considering a plan to set up base kitchens that will make good quality food to supply trains.
He’s also exploring an option to tie up with restaurants along train routes, so that commuters can order food from those restaurants, and the food would be delivered onto the train by Railway staff.
Some private websites have lately started offering this facility on their own, such as travelkhana.com, yatrachef.com and railtiffin.com.
Mobile ticket booking: The Indian Railways’ website irctc.co.in, which allows travelers to book tickets online, is one of the most-frequently visited websites in India.
Now, Indian Railways wants to introduce an option for travelers to be able to book train tickets on their cellphones. Mr. Prabhu didn’t clarify if he was referring to a new app for this booking.
He said Wednesday that a technical glitch has delayed the launch, but passengers can expect it soon.
Cleanliness: The Railways are looking to improve the quality of toilets and waiting spaces at train stations, said Mr. Prabhu. “We also want to improve the coaches,” he said. The plan is to retrofit existing train coaches and set up a factory for making new coaches, he added.
“In the next few months we should be able to put in place a complete blueprint” to achieve these goals without denting the rail finances, said Mr. Prabhu.