The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) was set up in September 1999 to manage the catering and tourism operations of Indian Railways (IR). As per the provisions of the Catering Policy, 2010, the management of catering services was transferred from IRCTC to IR as the former was unable to provide services in a professional manner. However, as per the recommendations of the Sreedharan Committee, management of the catering services will be transferred to IRCTC in a phased manner in 2016-17.
In the tourism space, IRCTC offers rail-based tour packages, chartered trains and coaches, luxury tourist trains, online hotel booking services, online air ticketing and corporate travel services.
Initiatives in railway catering
- Mobile catering: During 2014-15, IRCTC handed over catering services of a Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani train to East Coast Railway and three mail/express trains (Kerala Express, Thirukkural Express and Vivek Express) to Southern Railway and Northeast Frontier Railway. It managed on-board catering services in 75 pairs of premium trains and 18 pairs of mail/express trains through the award of temporary licences, while departmentally in three mail/express trains. IRCTC provided catering services on 17 Duronto, six Rajdhani, three Shatabdi and 10 mail/ express trains through zonal railways.
- E-catering: IRCTC launched train-based e-catering on 14 trains in September 2014. It extended station-based e-catering service to 45 major stations. In September 2015, a major revamp of e-catering services permitted food aggregators to join the e-catering initiative. IRCTC has developed an in-house “tele-catering” system for placing en-route meal orders on trains, through a web-based system. It has also tied up with Paytm for payment options.
- Food plazas/Fast food joints: During 2014-15, IRCTC commissioned 43 food plazas/ fast food units, taking the total number of operational units to 191. It also awarded 41 additional units at an annual licence fee of Rs 229.8 million.
- Others: Expressions of interest have been floated by IRCTC for food aggregators to ensure participation of reputed food chains for empanelment. The guidelines on “Ready–to-eat” meals were issued to the zonal railways in January 2015, following which, four firms have been empanelled to provide these meals to passengers on board trains. Meanhwile, a centralised catering service monitoring cell has been operationalised for prompt redressal of passenger grievances and providing real-time assistance to passengers, and an all-India helpline (138) number has been operationalised to give suggestions.
Initiatives in tourism
During the past 12-15 months, concierge services and Pilgrim Special tourist trains were launched on IRCTC’s tourism portal. IRCTC has launched concierge services at 22 railway stations as a pilot project. It operated 17 trips of Pilgrim Special tourist trains in 2014-15 on various routes of religious importance. Promotion of the Gandhi circuit in Gujarat and the Kisan Yatra travel scheme has been initiated and the first tours for both sectors were conducted in October 2015. IR, in association with IRCTC, introduced a mid-segment tourist train. The all-inclusive round-trip package covers rail transportation in different air-conditioned classes, local transportation, guided tours for sightseeing, a variety of meal options and hotel accommodation. Two trains, one on the Delhi-Jaisalmer-Jaipur-Delhi circuit and the other on the Delhi-Varanasi-Khajuraho-Agra-Delhi circuit, were launched in December 2015.