Limousine cabs, English-speaking drivers, credit card swipe machines in taxis - the Indian capital is pulling out all stops to offer a smooth ride around town as the 2010 Commonwealth Games approach.

Not only are taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers being trained to be at their best behaviour during the Games to make Delhi a top tourist destination, but the fleet of taxis is about to go up as well. A fair sprinkling of woman taxi drivers will also be seen at the wheel.

“In the run up to the Commonwealth Games, we will have cabs with credit card swipe machines for making card payments,” Neeraj Sharma, managing director and CEO of Delhi Cabs, said.

“The credit card service will be launched before the Games in October next year. We are also upgrading our cabs and increasing our fleet from the present strength of 500 in Delhi,” Kumar said.

“We are already training our drivers for soft skills, first aid and defence management.”

Another major player in the national capital, Mega Cabs, is also planning to increase its fleet before the Games.

Mega Cabs vice president Vinod Mishra said: “We now have 225 cars and we are adding 300 cars in next three months. The number will go up to 1,000 cars by the time the Games begin. We are training our drivers to speak English.”

The Delhi government also plans to have 5,000 radio taxis and 11,000 brand new commuter—friendly buses in the next few months. Already several cab services have been operating in Delhi and national capital region (NCR) areas like Gurgaon, Noida, Ghaziabad and Faridabad.

The capital will also see a number of women drivers during the Games.

“We are training women drivers. Now we have 16 and the number should double in a few months. We are also training them in soft skills,” said Meenu Vadhera, founder of Azad Foundation, which trains women drivers.

The government has also launched a massive training programme for taxi and autorickshaw drivers who are undergoing a course at the Haryana Institute of Public Administration (HIPA) in Gurgaon.

The four-day training includes lessons in personal grooming, courtesy, hygiene, English-speaking skills, first aid and safety management.

“We will be training 3,000 taxi and 4,000 autorickshaw drivers for the Games. Some 300 have already undergone training,” G. Anupama, HIPA additional director, told IANS. “We are also teaching them yoga and stress management and these will be useful to them lifelong,” she said.

A tourism ministry official said: “The training is necessary for drivers as they would be the first people to come in contact with the visitors or tourists.”

“The impression the taxi drivers and autorickshaw drivers create on tourists would be a major factor in establishing Delhi as a top tourist destination,” the official said.

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