In a move that is likely to delight passengers, IRCTC has for the first time in a train installed a tablet-operated automatic food vending machine. This new machine has been put in the newly introduced Coimbatore-Bengaluru UDAY Express. The automatic food vending machine offers a variety of quick-to-eat snacks and beverages such as biscuits, chips/Kurkure-type packaged eatables and canned juices, aerated drinks, tea/coffee. These automatic food vending machines have been installed in the mini-pantry-cum-dining areas of three coaches on the new UDAY Express double-decker train. The new train has been introduced keeping in mind the comfort needs of business travellers. While train number 22666 Coimbatore-Bengaluru UDAY Express train will take 7 hours from Coimbatore to Bengaluru, train number 22665 Bengaluru-Coimbatore UDAY Express train will take 6 hours and 45 minutes from Bengaluru to Coimbatore.
The passengers on UDAY Express can place their order using the tablet and the machine dispenses food/coffee after the payment has been made. Initially only cash payment will be accepted, but going ahead the option of cashless transactions will also be available. The process is fairly simple: the passenger can choose the list of items available on the tablet and add them to the cart. Once the payment has been made, the machine automatically dispenses the items. In case the passenger chooses tea/coffee, the ordered beverage pours out of the left-hand side of the machine.
A variant of this automatic vending machine is also installed in the all AC-3 tier Humsafar Express trains of Indian Railways. However, the machines in Humsafar Express only dispense beverages. The automatic food vending machine requires more space, something that is not available in most sleeper coaches of Indian Railways. UDAY Express, on the other hand, is a double-decker AC chair car, hence space is not a constraint.
IRCTC has been experimenting with new ways to ensure good quality standards for the food that it serves on trains. Recently, in an eco-friendly measure, it was decided that food on premium trains like Rajdhanis and Shatabdis will be served in bio-degradable containers. Also, to prevent vendors from overcharging passengers, Indian Railways in introducing POS (Point-of-Sale) machines in trains and it has been mandated that all food items should have MRP (Maximum Retail Price) printed on them. Additionally, IRCTC is making use of artificial intelligence to monitor its kitchens on a real-time basis with the help of high-tech cameras.