By Sept. 10, all Chennai autos to be covered; commuters can now consult card and pay as per new system; meters yet to be calibrated
The distribution of revised fare cards to autorickshaw drivers began on Sunday.
Around 300 drivers were given the cards by officials from regional transport offices (RTOs), as part of the drive to implement the new auto fare system announced by the government last week.
The cards have the fare as per the number of kilometres travelled, the fare under the old meter system and the corresponding revised fare. This, officials said, will help commuters calculate the fare they need to pay.
Auto drivers have been told to display the laminated cards prominently in their vehicles. The cards also have a photograph of the owner of the vehicle.
13 RTOs involved
Officials said the deadline for the completion of the distribution is September 10. On Sunday, each of the 13 RTOs in the city will distribute at least 500 cards to autorickshaws in their jurisdictions, and the distributions will continue until all autorickshaws in the city are covered.
There are over 71,000 registered autorickshaws in the city, and an estimated 2,000 unauthorised ones. Once all the cards are distributed, a crackdown on unauthorised autorickshaws will begin, a senior transport department official said.
However, integrated circuits (ICs) for the revised fare meters have not yet arrived in the city. The ICs are essential to recalibrate the existing meters. They were expected to be supplied on Friday, but the 42 authorised technicians in the city, who are expected to install them, are still waiting.
“I have not yet replaced the IC in my auto meter. The technician has asked me to come on Monday to replace it. I will only begin going by the new fare system once my IC is replaced,” said Raj, an auto driver in Chintadripet. A few autorickshaws, who have applied to RTOs for their annual fitness certificate, have already been given recalibrated meters.
Other drivers said they would only collect the new rate cards once they had new ICs installed. However, transport officials are urging all drivers to collect the new cards even if their meters have not been re-calibrated. “We are conducting an awareness programme among auto drivers about this,” an official said. Officials said the new fare system will be stringently enforced once the awareness drive has been completed.
While a few autos within city limits have already begun applying the revised fare to their trips, those in the suburbs continue to overcharge, residents said. The distribution of fare cards has begun for autorickshaws in the suburbs as well, but ensuring that the drivers here follow the revised system will be a challenge, officials said.
On Saturday, the first batch of auto owners/drivers received their revised fare cards at the RTO in Tambaram. There are over 3,300 autos registered under the Tambaram RTO and over 800 autos under the Sholinganallur Motor Vehicle Inspector’s limits. In addition to this, there are a few thousand autos registered at the Meenambakkam RTO.
Earlier in the day, several autorickshaw drivers from different auto stands and cutting across organisations affiliated to different political parties and trade unions, took part in a rally on Grand Southern Trunk Road in Tambaram. They carried placards urging fellow auto drivers to abide by the new fare structure.
There were however, a section of auto drivers who said the transport and police departments were soft pedalling when it came to the unregulated operation of Tata Magic vehicles.
They told officials that the auto drivers were forced to stick to the new fare as they could not afford to confront the government but that these fares would affect their livelihoods if unauthorised Tata Magic and Ape Piaggio share autos continue to ply.
Commuters in the suburbs, however, pointed out that such private share autos were essential as other forms of public transport left a lot to be desired.