Authorities back new vehicles hoping for positive change in public transport

The harrowing time passengers often experience with autorickshaws in the city might soon be a thing of the past with more ‘four-wheeler autos’ taking to the road and Kochiites showing a marked preference them over the all-too familiar three-wheelers.

The purported aim of the four-wheeler autos is to replace the existing fleet of three-wheelers, many of which are worthy of being no more than goods carriers because of the bumpy ride that they offer and the excessive sound and smoke produced by a few makes.

Their numerous advantages notwithstanding, law enforcement agencies have adopted a wait-and-watch approach towards four-wheeler autos.

They have been included in the motor cab category by the Kerala Motor Vehicles’ Department (MVD) since the ‘auto taxi’, as they are known, is neither an auto nor a car.

‘Change for the better’

B.J. Antony, Ernakulam RTO, expressed the hope that the new breed of vehicles will usher in a positive change in the city’s public transport system.

“They are safer and comfortable than three-wheeler autos. But they fall short of the safety standards fixed for cars and cannot negotiate curves at the speed of cars.”

Unlike autos which are permitted to ply within a limited area, these vehicles can operate anywhere in the State. This calls for curbs on operators from nearby districts shifting to Kochi’s crammed roads.

A few operators have shown interest in operating them and also Nano cars as call taxi services. Mr Antony hoped that this would bring about accountability in their operations since passengers will be given receipt of the fare collected.“They can even operate as share taxis along routes which are not linked by buses and areas which have inadequate public transportation modes. In the long run, they might even corner a share of the taxi car business,” he said.

In short, the new vehicles will check fleecing by three-wheeler autos and taxi cars.

Once people shift to such share vehicles, there would be a reduction in the number of private vehicles that take to congested city roads.

“Care has to be taken to ensure that in their greed to make more money, unscrupulous operators do not shift to the already chaotic city hub,” Mr Antony said.

Though some drivers charge Rs 15, the minimum fare charged by three-wheeler autos, there are others who charge Rs 20 for travelling up to 1.25 km.

Based on a request given by a manufacturer to issue a new permit and tax, the MVD’s Research and Development wing submitted a report to the government about these vehicles and their feasibility in the State.

The Ernakulam Joint RTO Sadiq Ali said that drivers will have to obtain a light motor vehicle licence since these vehicles are not classified as autos.

A nominally higher tax structure has been fixed for them.

More In: Kochi