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Lifting of ban on auto permits can have positive effect

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fare dispute Until concerted efforts are made to bring in a uniform autorickshaw fare
fare dispute Until concerted efforts are made to bring in a uniform autorickshaw fare

Ajai Sreevatsan

Transport Department has evolved a roadmap for effective enforcement of fares

CHENNAI: For commuters who go through the hassle of an argument with an autorickshaw driver over the fare regularly, the lifting of the ban on issue of permits for the three-wheelers last week can have a positive effect. However, for the benefits to trickle down to commuters, various other systemic reforms have to fall into place.

To facilitate this process, the Transport Department has evolved a roadmap for effective enforcement of autorickshaw fares in the city.

The roadmap suggests a shift to a system of fare meters that show the distance travelled in kilometres and the time taken to reach the distance, instead of the actual fare. The fare can be calculated by the commuter using a ‘tariff card' that will be affixed on every vehicle and distributed in important places. The department's website will also provide the information.

The ‘tariff card' system will do away with the need for recalibration of meters after every fare revision.

The other recommendations are a permanent committee to fix fare revision within three days from the date of a fuel price hike, a mobile fare meter testing unit and the need for more Auto LPG Dispensing Stations as LPG is cost-effective and the fuel cost could be brought down by 30 per cent. LPG is also an eco-friendly fuel.

The existing autorickshaw fare system, in force from January 2007, is a minimum of Rs.14 for the first two km and Rs.6 for every additional km. For the system to function smoothly, a detailed study looking into the cost of operation must be conducted to evolve a set of travel tables that can be used by commuters, says N.S.Srinivasan, former director of the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre.

“Everyone focuses on fuel costs, but the fuel component accounts for only 25 to 28 per cent of overall operating cost,” he adds.

However, Raj Cherubal of City Connect, an NGO working on issues concerning the city's transportation, says that the market can regulate better than any committee. “There must first be a shift from the mindset of ‘one size fits all.' The level of service must determine the fare. Cooperatives and companies that offer different levels of service can be differentiated by colour. The government must focus on enforcing transparency, not regulation.”

For regular commuters like A.Narayanan, a resident of Nanganallur, who pays a minimum of Rs.25 to Rs.30 just to get to the nearest bus stop, even an upward revision of the fare structure is acceptable if it leads to greater certainty. “Autorickshaw drivers have formed cartels in most localities. There is complete monopoly in localities that are not served by public transport. Minibus services and other mechanisms must be looked at to eliminate monopoly which leads to fleecing,” he says.

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