Big relief for passengers! For the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak, Indian Railways has allowed the sale of cooked food at its catering and vending units on railway stations. However, the food plazas, cell kitchens, Jan Ahars as well as the refreshment rooms will only be open for takeaways. Earlier, these food units were allowed to sell only packaged meals, according to a PTI report. On September 30, an order was issued by IRCTC stating that all the zonal railways are advised that static catering units, which are operational at 10% of license fee with limited saleable items up till 30 September 2020 may be permitted to operate till 31 October 2020 at pro-rata license fee of 20% with the sale of cooked meals only as a takeaway. Hence, no dine-in will be allowed, IRCTC stated.
The IRCTC order further advised all the zonal railways that the contracts which have expired after March 23 may also be permitted to operate up to October 31 on payment of 20% of the license fee. Despite an order issued a few months ago, several vendors had not opened their food units because of low footfall of passengers and due to restrictions on items/products they could sell. Earlier, vendor associations had written to the national transporter stating that they were not ready to begin services on station platforms due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Also, they urged Indian Railways officials not to pressure them into opening the stalls. Stalls on railway station platforms have been shut throughout the COVID-19 induced nationwide lockdown, which was imposed on 25 March 2020.
In a bid to cater to passengers travelling during the festive season, Indian Railways is planning to introduce 200 special train services between 15 October 2020 and 30 November 2020. In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the national transporter has suspended all regular passenger train services indefinitely. Since 22 March 2020, regular trains of Indian Railways have remained suspended. However, the national transporter started operations of 15 pairs of premium Rajdhani Express special trains connecting the national capital with different parts of the country on May 12, as well as 100 pairs of long-distance special trains on June 1. Additionally, 80 trains started operations on the Indian Railways network on September 12.