The IRCTC has spent more money than it earned in its e-catering services in the past four years, according to the data presented by the government in the Lok Sabha.
The highest expenditure was Rs 3.9 crore in 2017-18 against a revenue of Rs 1.82 crore.
E-catering service was started by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) in trains without pantry car, allowing passenger to book preferred meal through reputed e-catering websites as well as through phone and SMS.
Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain said in a reply to an unstarred question that in 2014-2015, the railways earned a revenue of Rs 13,255 through e catering, but its expenses were Rs 2.30 lakh.
In 2015-2016, he said, the national transporter earned Rs 14.83 lakh and spent Rs 1.29 crore, while in 2016-2017, it earned Rs 1.38 crore and expenses of Rs 2.89 crore.
In 2017-2018, it generated revenue of Rs 1.8 crore while spent Rs 3.9 crore, he said.
The online service, which features more than 500 restaurants and fast food chains at over 310 stations, has failed to attract passengers since its start in September 2015, and accounts for less than one per cent of the meals provided by the railways.
When it was launched, the focus was on increasing food options for passengers.
The IRCTC, the railways' public sector undertaking which manages online catering, has tied up with several fast food chains -- including Pizza Hut, McDonald's and Dominos -- and known restaurant chains such as Pind Baluchi, Haldiram's, Rajdhani, Wimpy and Delhi Durbar for providing food option to travellers.
Besides the IRCTC website, passengers could order meal using food aggregator apps such as Foodpanda and Zoop.
According to the railways, the e-catering service picked up from 400 meals a day in October 2015 to nearly 12,000 meals a day in August 2017, but has been falling since, with only about 5,000 meals a day booked in December 2017.
The railways provide 12 lakh meals every day, only about 7,000 meals on average are provided through e-catering, officials said.