Fares at prepaid auto stand baffle passengers
Troubled with auto drivers haggling over fares outside Pune railway station in the past, Manish Jadhav who alighted from the Deccan Express yesterday was relieved to find a prepaid auto stand in the premises.
Long wait: Auto drivers wait for passengers at Pune railway station. Pic/Mohan Patil
That initial relief, however, turned into discontent for Jadhav and his family after he was apprised of the fare to his destination.
“I often come to Pune to meet my relatives residing in Kothrud. But when I approached the prepaid auto booth, I was told to shell out Rs 175 for my destination. I was taken aback, as a few months ago when I travelled the same distance without the prepaid service, I was charged Rs 100,” said Jadhav.
The prepaid auto booth at the station is not new, and was started two years ago by the Regional Transport Office (RTO), which was handed over to a private contractor.
The initiative was appreciated because of the safety advantage. Moreover, passengers arriving at the railway station would often complain that auto drivers refused to ply by the meter and, instead, demand a lumpsum amount, which was exorbitant.
But, complaints started flooding in at the RTO about the high fares that are being charged at the prepaid auto booth. Passengers complained that the fares charged are not in sync with the distance, and that they were being overcharged.
(see box) To determine the fares, RTO officials had earlier conducted a survey and to arrive at the charges it is alleged that Google maps was used to decide the kilometre distance from the station. Initially, for the first four kilometres travelled, auto drivers were allowed 30 per cent incentive, while for four to 12 kilometres distance, a 25 per cent incentive was added.
For 12 km onwards, a 20 per cent incentive was charged.
But after several complaints, RTO reduced the incentives to a flat 20 per cent irrespective of the distance travelled, which meant that passengers have to pay 20 per cent extra apart from the regular fare.
G Bala, another commuter, said, “Though this prepaid system is good, the fares are too high and it should be reduced. Presently, the only advantage of this service is if forget your belongings in the rickshaw, you can get it back.”
Prabhudas D’souza, who was visiting Pune for the first time to attend a wedding, said, “We are strangers out here and don’t know the exact fares for places. I was sceptical about opting for the prepaid auto, as there is not even a rate card at the counter.”
Passengers protested that the non-existence of a rate card at the prepaid counter adds to their woes, further complaining that many a times the printer receipt does not work and charges and distances are written manually on a receipt by the counter in-charge.
In the prepaid fare service at the station, when a customer approaches the counter he/she is given a receipt, mentioning the registration number of the auto, driver’s name, date, time, distance and total fare. The driver pays R10 at the counter and the customer has to pay the fare when he/she reaches their destination. Commuters protest that the system does not really qualify as prepaid service. Ideally, the fare should be collected at the pre-paid booth at the station and a payment receipt should be issued to the auto rickshaw driver as well as the passenger.
Auto driver speaks
Ahmed Bilal, an auto driver operating at the stand, said, “The fare structure is good for us, but on the other hand private taxis charge around R13 per kilometre, which is lesser than ours. So many commuters prefer using them rather than autos. I feel the fares should be revised, which will benefit the customer and us.”
The prepaid auto rickshaw stand is outside the railway station near the main gate. It has six lanes, which can accommodate around 70 auto rickshaws. Once an auto enters the lane, it takes an average two hours for the driver to reach the passenger and leave.
Deputy RTO officer Anil Valiv said, “Charging more from passengers is not accepted. The entire prepaid system here needs to be rechecked and revised. I will look into this matter personally and have a word with the traffic department soon. The fares should be accurate according to the distance travelled. Only then will passengers reap the benefit of this service.”