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Yes ma’am! Stewards to serve on Rajdhani, Shatabdi

Rajdhani Express

Way back in June 2017, stewardesses and stewards were seen handling train passengers in India's fastest train Gatimaan Express. Now the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has taken up the mantle of training the catering and pantry staff on Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto Express to the level of stewards. This is mainly being done to improve the conduct of onboard catering staff, on contract or on rolls of the Railways.

As per plans, these catering staff are being trained on the lines of airlines where one finds air hostess and flight stewards. The staff are expected to wear aprons, gloves, hair caps and masks while serving food to passengers. The training is aimed at improving overall hospitality and passenger experience, especially when they interact with rail staff. Passengers often encounter rude behaviour from catering staff or those from the pantry when they complain about food served or tariffs charged.

The training, which commenced a month back, is being done with the help of Ministry of Skill Development. In phase one, 2,000 onboard catering staff, waiters from food plazas at railway stations and pantry staff are being trained. The content has been developed in a way that the course goes on for five days after which he will be checked while on duty. Gradually, a certificate shall be given on completion of this training and behavioural course. In the next phase, the IRCTC will also train official train side vendors selling food and wares on platforms.

Sources said the module will cover the roles and responsibilities of a steward and listed out 14 broad qualities they want them to possess. They have also listed 11 points that make for a proper code of conduct, which warrants one to be well-groomed, in a clean uniform, sporting name badges, wearing a smile on lips and indulging in polite talk. Use of tobacco/pan/gutka, and staring at passengers while talking to them are also a strict 'no'.

"A simple good morning or good evening can make a lot of difference," an IRCTC official pointed out.

"What we know is that these catering staff do not greet passengers while serving food or taking orders. In situations when food goes bad etc, the catering staff behaves rudely. We intend to change this behaviour of our staff or those who are part of private contractors," he said.

The certificate course has modules having a questionnaire on public behaviour, best practices and even group discussion among members of the onboard catering staff during the training session. The staff are also being asked to stage a roleplay in front of the class on how they would behave with passengers, especially if the latter behaves rudely. They also ask the staff to grade themselves on own grooming standards.

"We are also showing them graphic representation on washing their hands before handling food coming from base kitchens and delivering it to passengers," said another rail official. These stewards are also being taught steps to be taken in case of safety and/or security hazards.

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