There has been an overwhelming response for the scheme and there was demand for metered autorickshaws even from far-off places.

When there is reluctance elsewhere to resurrect the “Meter Auto”, Tiruchi has a pioneering example of how autorickshaws run with meters can keep the cash registers ringing.

S. Pushpavanam, secretary of Consumer Protection Council-Tamil Nadu, the moving force behind the introduction of a novel “meter auto” scheme in the city in March last year, is the happiest man today — not only because the scheme is viable but also it has proved a point.

Although the State government unveiled a new fare structure for autorickshaws after a gap of six years, Tiruchi has been a forerunner in introducing the “metered auto” scheme.

The Consumer Protection Council — Tamil Nadu and Mr. Pushpavanam can take full credit for introducing the meter system in March 2013 and successfully running it without any hitch till now.

At a time when operation of metered autos remained a distant dream, the Consumer Protection Council took the bold initiative of operating autorickshaws fitted with electronic fare meters. These autorickshaws have won all-round appreciation from day one.

Compared to the revised rates fixed by the State government — Rs. 25 for the first 1.8 km and Rs. 12 for every additional km — the fare collected by the Consumer Protection Council-run autorickshaws — Rs. 22 for the first two km and Rs. 11 for every additional km — was much less.

While the official fare for covering 4 km is Rs. 51, the metered autorickshaws of Tiruchi at present collect only Rs. 44 for the same distance.

The scheme, which ran into rough weather initially due to opposition from other autorickshaw drivers, has now won appreciation. Not many expected this scheme to continue for long. As they apprehended, the meter-fitted autorickshaws were attacked and sign boards (“metered autos”) damaged. The drivers were threatened and intimidated, which forced four drivers to quit within a week of introduction of the scheme.

There has been an overwhelming response for the scheme and there was demand for metered autorickshaws even from far-off places.

Many users volunteer to pay the meter fare for reaching the place of pick up. The operation of metered autorickshaws was highly sustainable, says Mr. Pushpavanam.

The drivers get a salary of not less than Rs. 10,000 a month. The council bears the expenses involved in repairing the vehicles, whenever they develop snags. After meeting all the expenses, the council nets revenue of about Rs. 4,500 a month, he says.

With the revised government meter rates much higher than the rates of Tiruchi, metered autorickshaws, the Consumer Protection Council plans to revise its rate. The move is expected to fetch additional revenue. According to Mr. Pushpavanam, the council has plans to introduce more metered autorickshaws in the city.