Food delivery apps spice up Indian train journeys

In this photograph taken on August 26, 2016, employee of TravelKhana waits at the platform to deliver food to passenger at the Mathura Junction in Mathura. (AFP)
Updated 13 October 2016
0

Food delivery apps spice up Indian train journeys

MATHURA: Passengers on India’s vast railway network have long complained of the terrible meals on offer to sustain them on long journeys, but a slew of new services bringing fast food to their seats is changing the way they dine.
From Kentucky Fried Chicken to Domino’s pizza and a host of local delicacies, today’s train passengers have access to a vast array of hot dishes, all at the click of a smartphone app.
For passenger Amit V, who has ordered a vegetarian curry dish to be delivered to his seat, the new services are a godsend after years of buying railway food that he says was often inedible.
“This food is 100 times better than the railway food,” the mathematics teacher told AFP as he prepared to board a train for the 19-hour journey from Mathura, a major rail hub in northern India, to his home town in the west of the country.
It is all a far cry from what was on offer just a few years ago, when there were reports of cockroaches being found in dishes, and a leaked internal report said food was cooked in “dirty, smelly and waterlogged pantry cars.”
In one case, the samosas — a popular snack — were kept in a basket with cleaning mops. There is demand too for a greater variety of options, with customers craving international cuisine, fast food, as well as local fare.
The new services are part of the process of modernizing India’s state-owned railway network, which carries around 23 million passengers a day. Asia’s oldest rail network is a lifeline for India’s 1.2 billion people, but is creaking from decades of neglect and chronic underinvestment.
Last year the government announced a $137-billion five-year modernization plan that includes introducing free wifi in some stations in partnership with Google.
Google says the service will cover 100 stations by the end of this year, with an eventual target of 400 — a further boost to online food delivery services.
Indian Railways invited major chains such as KFC to sign up to its e-catering service, which allows passengers to pre-order online or by phone for delivery at major stations. The next step will be to set up “base kitchens” in major stations to allow companies to prepare freshly cooked food for delivery on the trains.
A host of private entrepreneurs are also trying to tap the market, among them Pushpinder Singh, who founded TravelKhana (Travel Food) with his wife in 2012.
The company signs up individual restaurants close to stations on busy routes, providing a delivery service for a fee.
“There are around 5,000 long distance trains with around 770 km journey on average, but only six percent of them have a proper food service,” Singh told AFP.
“This is the section we are targeting.”
The key to success is speed — delivery services have just a few minutes to track down their customers before the train leaves the station.
At Mathura station, deliveryman Aman Singh Badhorie takes it all in his stride.
Within two minutes he pushed his way through an overcrowded carriage to locate his customer’s seat, delivered his order and taken payment, leaving him a full 60 seconds to disembark before the train pulls away.


NASA scraps all-women spacewalk for lack of well-fitting suits

In this file photo taken on March 14, 2019 NASA astronauts Christina Hammock Koch and Nick Hague, members of the International Space Station (ISS) expedition 59/60, react shortly before the launch onboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (AFP)
Updated 26 March 2019
0

NASA scraps all-women spacewalk for lack of well-fitting suits

  • The spacesuits aboard the ISS are in fact assemblies of several parts put together as best adapted to each astronaut’s body, explained Brandi Dean, spokeswoman of the Johnson Space Center in Houston

WASHINGTON: The US space agency NASA scrapped Monday a planned historic spacewalk by two women astronauts, citing a lack of available spacesuits that would fit them at the International Space Station.
Christina Koch will now perform tasks in space Friday with fellow American Nick Hague — instead of Anne McClain as originally planned.
Had Koch and McClain done their spacewalk together, it would have been the first ever by two women astronauts.
Until now, male-only or mixed male-female teams had conducted spacewalk since the space station was assembled in 1998 — 214 spacewalks until now.
McClain worked outside the station last week — with Hague — when she realized that a “medium“-sized upper half of her spacesuit fit her better.
“Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it,” NASA explained.
The spacesuits aboard the ISS are in fact assemblies of several parts put together as best adapted to each astronaut’s body, explained Brandi Dean, spokeswoman of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where American astronauts are based.
She said two upper parts in each of the three available spacesuit sizes are currently held at the ISS: medium, large and extra large.
“We do our best to anticipate the spacesuit sizes that each astronaut will need, based on the spacesuit size they wore in training on the ground, and in some cases astronauts train in multiple sizes,” she said in explaining the problem that hampered Friday’s planned spacewalk.
“However, individuals’ sizing needs may change when they are on orbit, in response to the changes living in microgravity can bring about in a body.
“In addition, no one training environment can fully simulate performing a spacewalk in microgravity, and an individual may find that their sizing preferences change in space.”