Hate railway food? Swiggy, Zomato, UberEats may soon deliver on trains

Indian Railways catering. File photo
Railway passengers might soon be able to order food from more than 40,000 restaurants, even while they are on the move. The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is planning to get food-delivery service providers and restaurant aggregators, such as UberEats, Zomato, Foodpanda, and Swiggy, to deliver food to trains.  

A source in the Railways said IRCTC expects at least 12 per cent commission from these firms. Talks have been on for the past few months; both IRCTC and food-delivery companies are figuring out what technology and back-end logistics will be needed to make the service possible.

"We have approached Zomato and Swiggy to be part of our platform. IRCTC will charge 12 per cent commission for online food orders, if they become part of it," said an official source close to the development. 

None of the companies were available for comment. 

The Railways launched its e-catering scheme in 2014-15, but it gathered momentum only in 2016-17. Till October this year, IRCTC was providing about 270,000 meals per month through its e-catering portal and food-on-track applications. 

The orders serviced by IRCTC pales in front of the numbers done by companies such as Zomato, which gets 12 million orders a month. Swiggy gets 15 million.

At present, 409 stations across the country are covered under the e-catering scheme by IRCTC, for which 136 vendors and 12 aggregators are empanelled. IRCTC is the official agency for this scheme, which it runs through its authorised partners. 

The online food services providers on trains include Dominos, RailRestro, RelFood, Rajdhani Online Food, Comesum, and Zoop.  

"The idea is to bring in more restaurants and offer the facility on more railway stations. We are giving the option to passengers to shift from traditional daal, roti, and chawal available on trains to biryani and pizzas," the official quoted above added. 

Before food-delivery firms can provide this service, however, they need to work out their backend logistics.

"Not all restaurants will be part of this service. The restaurants have to be near the railway station. Plus, the delivery has to be timed perfectly so that they are able to locate and deliver the food on time. Also, there are times when a train might be late so the restaurant has to be aware of that as well so that they do not waste time on an order from that particular train. Once we have all this in place, we will start the pilots," said a senior vice-president of one of these firms. 

They are also trying to figure out how the entry and exit of food delivery executives would be done as they cannot buy a platform ticket for every delivery.

About 23 million passengers travel on trains every day. IRCTC provides 1.1 million meals to passengers, of which 1 million are on trains. It is also signing deals with other food companies such as Biryani Blues, Faasos, and PizzaHut.  

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