Autorickshaw drivers in the suburbs are clearly unhappy over the new system of fares and feel that it does not take into account the realities of the situation in the area.
Residents and drivers noted that meters were never used in the suburbs around Tambaram even when they were mandatory in Chennai. There are close to 5,000 autorickshaws that operate in the thickly populated residential areas in the city’s southern suburbs. “I have been driving for more than 15 years and not once have I operated the meter,” said D. Balaraman, an auto driver in Vengaivaasal near Tambaram. Commuters also do not seem to be in any mood to complain. “The government’s move is welcome, but I really doubt if it would be implemented properly,” said N. Santhanakrishnan of Adambakkam.
In the suburbs, which now extend far beyond railway stations and bus termini, autorickshaws are an integral mode of transport for residents on their way to schools, colleges and offices. Many commuters have no option but these three-wheelers to reach transport hubs. “Our bond is firm and strong,” said Mr. Santhanakrishnan, who felt it would be difficult for rates to come down overnight.
For instance, for the stretch between Tambaram railway station and Medavakkam — a distance of 8 kilometres — the fare is anywhere between Rs. 150 and Rs. 175. According to the recent revisions, the fare should only be Rs. 99.40. “We just cannot afford to travel that distance and return, often empty, for just Rs. 100,” Mr. Balaraman added. According to him, the recent revisions would be practical for them only if they got long trips. “But these days, most people prefer AC cabs for such trips,” he said. Share autorickshaws that transport as many as 10 passengers — over and above the maximum prescribed limit of just three – make a considerable amount when they ply on the Sholinganallur - Medavakkam - Tambaram route. The fare revisions would bring down their daily earnings to those of the share autorickshaw drivers, Mr. Balaraman said.