By Anand Singh
New Delhi, Aug 7 (IANS) After its high-tech interiors and tasty meals, now the superfast Delhi-Varanasi Vande Bharat Express will have smartly-turned out ‘airhostesses’ on board handing out food to passengers.
Indian Railways has hired over 34 ‘airhostesses and flight stewards’ to care for passengers on Vande Bharat, which was inaugurated on February 15.
The air hostesses, attired in white shirt-black trousers with a black sleeveless jacket, a silk scarf around the neck, and with the hair smartly combed back, would wheel in the food trolleys, laden with food and drinks for the passengers.
The Indian Rail Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has done the hiring of air hostesses and flight stewards on Vande Bharat, which was earlier named Train 18, a railway official said, declining to be named.
The move is part of a six-month pilot project to take forward Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal’s dream of making the railways more competitive by providing world class service to passengers.
Besides adding to passenger comfort, the railways also hopes the move will help minimise complaints regarding shoddy behaviour of pantry staff.
Just like on an airline flight, the air hostesses and flight stewards would greet passengers with a smile and ‘namastey’ while boarding and thank them during debording.
IRCTC MD M.P. Mall told IANS, “We have hired 34 Air Hostesses and Flight Stewards from the Air Borne Air Hostess Academy in Delhi to provide flight-like hospitality services on board the Vande Bharat Express.”
He said the pilot project is aimed at not only improving the catering service but also “improve communication” with passengers.
The pilot project was launched a month ago and the response has been “amazing!”, he said.
If the project is successful, the IRCTC would float a tender to hire more such personnel for the Vande Bharat Express as well as other premium trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Tejas and Humsafar Express trains.
IRCTC Spokesperson Siddharth Singh said that IRCTC is paying Rs 25,000 a month as salary to the Air Borne Air Hostess Academy personnel.
Earlier, the pantry staff would be paid around Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 a month by the private player hired for providing services.
The Prime Minister flagged off the Vande Bharat Express chair-car train from New Delhi to his parliamentary constituency Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh on February 15. It covers the 850 km distance in eight hours, compared to the 12 hours by other trains.
The high-speed Vande Bharat train has been manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) of the Indian Railways in Chennai.
The gleaming blue-nosed train comes fitted with the best amenities, including high-speed on-board WiFi, GPS-based passenger information system, touch-free bio-vacuum toilets, LED lighting, mobile charging points and a climate control system that automatically adjusts the temperature.
The 16-coach train has two executive compartments with 52 seats each and trailer coaches with 78 seats each. The executive class coaches have rotating seats to match the direction of the train.
The food on board the train is much compared to other trains.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at [email protected])