Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) asks Indian railways to give its decision a second thought of letting zones to build food plazas on rail land, a mandate held by the catering arm of the national transporter.
In an order issued on March 8, the Railway Board gave permission to its 17 zones to use vacant spots at stations for such units.
In the order, the Railway Board stated, “Setting up of food plaza/fast food units/multicuisine restaurants by Zonal Railways at the vacant/non-utilised space available at railway stations… References have been received from Zonal Railways seeking permission to operate major static units (Food Plazas, Fast Food Units and Multi Cuisine restaurants) in view of the fact that many spaces allotted to IRCTC have continued to remain vacant thus leading to non-provision of passenger service and loss of railway revenue.”
“Currently, there are approximately 300 food plazas under operation by the IRCTC and over 75 more are expected to be finalized in the coming months. “The IRCTC has requested the railways for reconsideration of its decision,” IRCTC spokesperson Anand Jha said.
Sources said the IRCTC has returned about 40 food plaza sites to the railways due to non-participation by bidders owing to poor financial and operational feasibility. They also blamed the poor location of the sites for the IRCTC’s decision.
The sources indicated that the units were delayed also due to the pandemic. “There had been non-operations and some closure of the units too. The railways had extended its benefits of reduction of license fee payable by its licensee-based catering units too. Two years of pandemic cannot be ignored when business over the railway station almost came to a standstill. Scope of work for food plaza operation was drastically curtailed,” the source said.
The railways earns approximately Rs 120 crore per annum from static units, which includes refreshment rooms, janahaars along with food plazas and fast food units, the sources said. This came down to around Rs 10 crore during FY 2020-21 primarily due to the pandemic, they added.
(With inputs from PTI)