Several attempts to enforce meter fare had failed

Passengers struggling to hire an autorickshaw or a taxi at a reasonable fare is common sight at the railway station or bus stand in the city. The drivers virtually lay a siege to the passengers, wooing them to the vehicles. But, what follows is fleecing and this calls for at least a pre-paid system if meter fare cannot be enforced now.

A trip from the railway junction to Pappanaickenpalayam that is 4 km away or Race Course that is hardly 3 km away can cost Rs. 50 to Rs. 80, depending on the time of travel (day or night) and the ability of the passenger to bargain.

As waiting at the bus stop and travelling in a bus with heavy luggage is found difficult, people are the mercy of the autorickshaw and taxi drivers, secretary of Coimbatore Consumer Cause K. Kathirmathiyon says.

This is precisely why the city needs at least a pre-paid autorickshaw and taxi system in order to prevent fleecing of passengers at railway stations and bus stands. The train fare from Chennai to Coimbatore is only Rs. 240 by an overnight train and lesser in day trains. But, on arrival at the Coimbatore Railway Junction, they have to pay Rs. 140 to Rs. 200 to reach their houses at Ondipudur, Singanallur, Pappanaickenpudur, Vadavalli or Sai Baba Colony, he adds.

Some solace for the passengers is the availability of call taxis that run on meter fare and can accommodate more luggage and people than autorickshaws. But, they are not able to enter the railway junction premises because of the parking fee.

Mr. Kathirmathiyon recalls that several attempts to enforce the meter fare had failed because of the lack of administrative and political will.

The pre-paid system was tried out in early 1999, but failed because of fleecing at the point of dropping passengers. But, the system can be revived to provide some relief to passengers, especially in the absence of a meter fare. Fixing of meter fare all along remained elusive in Coimbatore as the drivers and their unions demanded a steep upward revision.

District Collector M. Karunakaran, who is also the Regional Transport Authority, says pre-paid autorickshaw and call taxi concept is successful in Chennai.

It will be considered for Coimbatore at the earliest.

City Police Commissioner Amaresh Pujari said smooth implementation of any passenger-friendly measure will be ensured.

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