As Indian Railways usher in to the age of high speed trains, it is all set to upgrade its standards at par with air travel. And the most notable feature of it will be smart, polite and well groomed train hostesses and stewards. This will be common to other premium trains, including Rajdhani Express and Shatabdi Express. The service will also be available on proposed Tejas Express, announced by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in the 2016 Budget.
The Indian Railway is set to introduce the first batch of train hostesses on New Delhi - Agra Gatimaan Express next week.
While the objective is bringing train journey in India at par with air travel and other world class facilities, officials claimed it will also create job prospects. Taking a cue from several high-speed train services in European countries, the Indian Railways have also decided to introduce hostesses in proposed Tejas Express and Gatimaan Express trains on other corridors. The first Gatimaan Express, the fastest train in India, will be launched on April 5, where hostesses will be deployed to cater to the passengers.
The train will be flagged-off by Suresh Prabhu. Officials said the Indian Railway, in wake of fare hike in higher classes, has been facing tough competition from low cost airlines; hence, it intends to introduce rail hostess system in Rajdhani Express and Shatabdi Express trains across the country.
A Railway Board official said this system is already in practice in China and several European countries. "The system would generate jobs for women. Being efficient in hospitality, women would enhance the reputation of railways by providing better catering services to passengers aboard prestigious trains," he said.
"We are trying to provide best possible services in Gatimaan Express matching the flight services. We aim to provide world class environment on Indian trains so that one can look at these jobs with dignity. Depending on success of the experiment on New Delhi-Agra Gatimaan Express, train hostesses will be deputed in Rajdhani and Sahatabdi Express trains," a senior railway ministry official said.
The railways are also working on nine corridors where semi-high speed trains with such facilities will be introduced. The Indian Railways plans to roll out such trains on nine more routes, including Kanpur - Delhi, Chandigarh -Delhi, Hyderabad - Chennai, Nagpur - Bilaspur, Goa - Mumbai and Nagpur - Secunderabad among others.
Delhi's Divisional Rail Manager (DRM) Arun Arora said two attendants - one male and one female - will be deputed in each coach of Gatimaan Express.
From serving food to providing newspapers, magazines - they will assist the passengers in all possible ways. New Delhi - Agra Gatimaan Express will have 20 train hostesses - two each for 10 passenger coaches in the train.
An IRCTC official said the train hostesses will be provided by a private agency that will be assigned the catering on the train. "These hostesses will be skilled with proficiency in English and Hindi so that they can assist the passengers in the best possible way. In addition to this, basic etiquette training will be given to them," officials said. A trial run for this was successfully conducted last month following which the go-ahead was given by the Railway Ministry.
It may be noted that the proposal of train hostesses on the pattern of air hostesses was mooted during the tenure of former railway minister Mamata Banerjee. But repeated changes in the ministries, the plan was put on backburner.