Airport officials have requested the State police to run the service

Even after being recognised as an international airport, the Tiruchi Airport lacks a pre-paid taxi service much to the discomfiture of first-time visitors and tourists to the city.

A proposal to introduce the service that seemed to have gathered shape last year still remains a non-starter. Although Transport department officials held a couple of rounds of talks with the taxi drivers and operators at the airport then, the move has strangely been caught in procedural wrangles. Sources at the airport now say that they have requested the State police to run the service and have sent a request to the city police authorities. An airport official said they have already written to the city police who in turn have taken up the matter with their higher authorities in Chennai for approval. “A request was made to us and it was suggested that 10 per cent of the revenue generated from the service can be given to the police. Such matters require clearance of the government and we have asked for the same,” said an officer of the city police. But he pointed out that the manpower of the State police is already stretched and the Central Industrial Security Force, which is in-charge of the airport security, could as well be asked to help in running the service.

As of now, only a taxi-rental service run by a contractor is available at the airport apart from the taxies operating. But in a city notorious for its high auto and taxi fares, the absence of pre-paid service taxi or auto service at the airport, bus stand and the Railway Station is felt acutely by first-time visitors and tourists, observed G.Ravichandran, president, Tiruchi Travel Federation.

Recently, a first-time visitor to the city was apparently told by a taxi driver that the Central Bus Stand was 17 km away from the airport and charged Rs.1,200 for the trip. The vexed traveller, however, did not want to prefer a complaint, Mr.Ravichandran claimed. “It is a pity that the airport even after being conferred international status does not have a pre-paid taxi service. It is an essential requirement at the airport and we have represented the matter often. I raised the issue even at the last meeting of the Airport Advisory Committee meeting,” he said.

An officer of the Transport Department said that the issue was now between the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the police. However, the Transport department has to fix the fares in consultation with the operators. “We were told that the service has to be run under the supervision of the police. Once they are ready we can fix the fares within a couple of days,” he said.

Given the procedural issues and red tape, some feel that the AAI could at least have a help desk to provide accurate information to first-time visitors. “Sign boards listing the distance to various places and the approximate auto and taxi fares could be put at the airport, railway station, bus stand and tourist spots in the city. The boards could be multilingual so that new visitors could have some idea of the distance between various points. Until such time the pre-paid taxi is introduced at the airport, such a sign board could help check fleecing,” Mr.Ravichandran said.