In what could be a successful fight won, the railways have decided to restart water vending machines at railway stations. The Central Railway will install these WVMs at 35 stations. This will ensure that people get 1-litre water for Rs 5 instead of spending Rs 15 on Rail Neer.
The Central Railway authorities will soon install 36 WVMs at 34 railway stations in Mumbai Division. Sources in the railways said that they are installing these WVMs at Reay Road, Cotton Green, Sewri, Wadala, Parel, Sion, Mankhurd, Thane, Mulund, Bhandup, Mumbra, Neral, Matheran, Ulhasnagar, Ambernath, Vasind, Atgaon etc among other stations. Thane will be the only station where three WVMs will be installed.
Sources said that the main reasons were a shortage of bottled water at railway stations and consistent demand from railway passenger associations for providing drinking water at stations.
“We had been asking the railway authorities to recall the decision of discontinuing WVMs. We are glad that the Central Railway are reintroducing it,” said Subhash Gupta, president, of Rail Yatri Parishad.
The tenders for the same have been called. The size of the WVMs will be 30 sq. feet and tender has been called for 5 years during which time the private contractor will be appointed. “There was demand from passenger associations for improving the situation of providing water to commuters. We have called tenders and hoping that soon the stations will have these WVMs,” said a senior CR official.
The rates of water provided through vending machines are very reasonable as compared to bottled water sold. Last month the top bureaucrat of Indian Railways, VK Tripathi the Chairman and CEO had informed that WVMs won’t be restarted.
Sources said that in the past IRCTC had also installed WVMs at railway stations. Moreover, there were problems with meeting the demand for bottled water and supplying the same at railway stations.
There were 80 WVMs on the Central Railway and over 50 on the Western Railway in the past. The WVMs used to sell water at Rs 2 for 300ml glasses and Rs 3 with their own container. For a 1 litre bottle, WVM will provide water at Rs 5 and Rs 8 will take in a container for refilling. This is way cheaper than the bottled water sold under the Rail Neer brand at stations at Rs 15.
The availability of WVMs was a good way of providing clean water to the public. The passenger associations claimed that the decision of shutting WVMs would have only benefitted the canteen and food stalls. The IRCTC produces 14500 cartons of Packaged Drinking Water with each containing 12 bottles of 1 litre each.
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