Hyderabad: Indian Railways, in an initiative to provide safe and affordable drinking water to millions of travellers everyday, has roped in water treatment companies Ion Exchange, Kent RO, Nuchem Weir and Eureka Forbes to set up 3,000 water-vending machines within a year at stations on high traffic routes. Each cluster can be a city or a city plus adjoining towns.
Nearly 160 water-vending machines have been already installed.
The railway ministry plans to sell the purified water from tehse vending machines competitively.
The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has fixed the price of water at Re1 for 300 ml, Rs3 for one litre and Rs12 for five litres. IRCTC has awarded licences to operate the machines for five years at each cluster.
Till last year, the railways ran a bottled-water brand called Railneer but could not bring its selling price lower than Rs10 a bottle owing to the high cost of distribution.
It is then the concept of water treatment machines vending purified water made headway at the ministry, the chief of Mumbai-based Ion Exchange said.
“The vending machine concept can be successful in India, the way soft drinks and hot beverage machines have already proved,” Rajesh Sharma, Ion Exchange’s managing director told Mint. “Major advantages the vending machines offer are that the water sold will be less expensive than that in the bottle, environment friendly and safe.”
The company plans to set up its Zero-B branded machines, costing up to Rs200,000 each, at the clusters it has been licensed in.
Kent RO, a water treatment firm based in Noida, near New Delhi, has won a contract from the Indian Railways to set up and run 80 vending machines, said R.S. Rao, the company’s general manager for marketing.
Kent RO will be supplying machines to 10 clusters in the North, which would include Delhi, Moradabad and Allahabad, Rao said.
The water vending companies say they expect dispensed water to grow to match the Rs1,000-crore-a-year bottled water business in India. About 660 crore passengers travel by Indian Railways every year.