Of the 700 autorickshaws in the stand outside Central station, 500 remained idle
Carrying a can with very little petrol, V. Selvaraj, a taxi driver, declared that this was his second trip to the petrol bunk for the day. The pre-paid taxi stand at Chennai Central Station wore a deserted look on Monday, and he was among the few drivers offering rides to the hundreds of passengers that streamed out of the station. “I had one savari today to Velachery and I have already run out of petrol. I have to wait for at least two hours in the queue to fill this can,” he said.
Almost 50 per cent of the other drivers ceased services. The same situation prevailed in the pre-paid autorickshaw stands too. Of the 700 autos in the stand outside Central station, some 500 autos remained idle and the rest were not even on the premises.
“For the last three days, half of our drivers have not been coming as they do not find it feasible anymore. Whenever there are not enough vehicles in our stand, we call auto drivers from outside. But often, they do not agree to ply for the low rates that prepaid autos charge,” said P. Arumugam, president, Chennai Central Railway Station Auto Drivers and Commuters Welfare Society.
For both auto and taxi drivers, the shortage of petrol and diesel coupled with traffic diversions and traffic jams on the city's roads due to Metro Rail work have taken a toll on their daily earnings. “I have had to turn away customers today. My daily income has been badly affected. Tomorrow if the situation worsens, I will not return,” said V. Raj an auto driver.
The situation was similar at the at the Egmore station. Drivers of autos with railway permits said that bunks supplied them only a litre or two which did not suffice.
“We only go for local trips which can be managed with the little fuel we manage to refill every day. We cannot also charge huge amounts like the autos outside since we run on an official permit,” says G. Kumaran, a taxi driver in Egmore.
The Fast-Track cab service at Central station though, is managing to run services as usual, despite 1,500 of its 4,000 cars not running since the fuel price hike.
“Since most of our trips are to the airport, Chengalpettu and Meenambakkam, our drivers fill petrol there before returning to the city. The situation is not that critical in those areas,” said the manager of Fast-Track services in Central, S. Mohan.