Autorickshaws back in 'business' at Central station

CHENNAI, AUG. 30. Autorickshaws are back in `business' at the Central railway station making hay, as all efforts to regulate them have failed due to the `unconcerned' attitude of the authorities.

The queue system which was introduced by the railway authorities and the police a couple of years ago has collapsed with most of the autorickshaws violating the regulations and parking outside the designated bay. The drivers demolished the concrete barricade of the parking bay near the new concourse making it easy for them to come into the restricted area.

Every morning, hundreds of autorickshaws swarm the station entrance near the MMC complex, while many even drive upto the new concourse through the broken barricade. The drivers are mostly spotted inside the station and even on the platforms, hunting for ``easy'' passengers, who can be compelled to hire their vehicle. The rush begins with the arrival of the Steel City Express at around 4 a.m. As the day progresses, the menace reduces only to pick up again during the evening rush hour.

Outside, a huge number of autorickshaws are seen parked along the Poonamallee High Road from near the signal to the Southern Railway headquarters. The traffic police do not allow the autorickshaws on Waltax Road, but they have done nothing so far to stop them from parking along the road.

The authorities could only regulate the autorickshaws inside the station as all efforts to stipulate fares reached nowhere. As a result, fleecing and excess charging continued unabated.

The police plead helplessness saying they do not have sufficient manpower to regulate the autorickshaws. The additional personnel (one head constable and six constables from the Armed Reserve force, and one sub-inspector and six constables from the traffic department) deputed by the Commissioner since September 1998 to regulate the bay were withdrawn a year ago.

The police said their suggestion that the railway authorities construct a strong barricade around the bay had not been accepted.

The authorities were considering re-introduction of the pre-paid autorickshaw system, introduced in 1996 and withdrawn later, with some modifications. The fares are being worked out in consultation with transport officials before being sent to the Government for approval.

Autorickshaws parked at the stand inside the Central Railway station. The scene at bottom right shows autorickshaws parked outside the barricade which was demolished by drivers.