Short-distance auto passengers find no takers at south Mumbai stations

Updated: Feb 13, 2019, 01:39 IST | Suraj Ojha

In second part of our audit, we visited three island city termini to find only CSMT has working prepaid facility while chaos reigns in Mumbai Central, Dadar

Short-distance auto passengers find no takers at south Mumbai stations
Taxis crowd the exit at Mumbai Central station, waiting to grab passengers.

Two railway stations in the city that welcome outstation passengers - Dadar and Mumbai Central - too lack prepaid taxi booths, just as LTT, Bandra Terminus and Borivli station in the suburbs. At Dadar and Mumbai Central, the booths have been non-functional for the past one year. The only station that has been managing its prepaid booths well is CSMT.

The prepaid taxi booth at Dadar on the Central Railway line is shut for over a year and taxi drivers have been haphazardly parking their vehicles outside the station causing severe traffic jams. In the absence of a booth, drivers even venture on to the platform to lure passengers.

The prepaid booth area (indicated in poster at top left) at Mumbai Central is deserted. Pic/Bipin Kokate
The prepaid booth area (indicated in poster at top left) at Mumbai Central is deserted. Pic/Bipin Kokate

According to the Railway Protection Force (RPF), Dadar, action has been taken against 34 such taxi drivers in the last one year. "Last month, a passenger was charged Rs 2,000 for a trip to Matunga from Dadar and he came to the RPF post later to complain. We immediately called the driver who returned his money but the passenger did not wish to file a complaint so we let him go with a warning," said an RPF officer.

"We have also asked station officials to make announcements when long-distance trains arrive, warning passengers against falling for the drivers' tricks," he added. "I had to go to Kalachowkie but the drivers avoid short-distance passengers. We instead get taxis near the Swami Narayan temple," said another commuter Deepak Singh.

The deserted prepaid taxi ramp at Dadar station. Pic/Suraj Ojha
The deserted prepaid taxi ramp at Dadar station. Pic/Suraj Ojha

Hawkers occupy ramp for cabs
The railways have also built a ramp for taxi drivers to park their vehicles outside the station but the drivers, often in a rush to secure passengers, violate these rules and reach platforms, railway officials said.

"A hall near the ticket booking counter is quite empty and open to all. When trains arrive, the drivers standing here immediately march towards the platform to approach passengers and retreat to the hall if they see police," he added.

Police inspector Arvind Kale of Dadar East Traffic Division said, "We used to take action against 40 to 45 traffic law violators every day since the ramp made for taxi drivers is often occupied by hawkers. We have written to the BMC a number of times too, but no action has been taken to clear these premises."

The signboard still gives directions to a prepaid taxi stand at Mumbai Central station
The signboard still gives directions to a prepaid taxi stand at Mumbai Central station

Not by the meter at Mumbai Central
The prepaid taxi booth at Mumbai Central doesn't function because no contractors have approached the railways for it, informed officials at the station. "We have also put up a board urging passengers to follow the meter for their taxi rides," he added.

According to RPF Mumbai Central, there is a taxi stand outside the station. "We don't allow them to go to the platform. We have also deployed our staff here to who ensure that no passenger is harassed," an RPF official said.

Inspector Shailendra Dhiwar of Mumbai Central GRP said that they hadn't received any complaints regarding over-charging so far. A commuter, who don't wish to be named, however, did have a complaint. He said that the taxi drivers here do not ply by the meter. "They asked me to pay Rs 250 to Rs 300 to drop me to CSMT," he said. "The problem is also that they do not agree to short-distance trips and purposely demand a higher price to avoid passengers," said another commuter, Imran Shaikh.

Why auto and taxi mafias are rampant at three of busiest suburban train stations in Mumbai

Not a single complaint at CSMT
CSMT station in South Mumbai was the one to please us though. With a proper traffic management system, CSMT RPF said that they hadn't received a single complaint.
A worker at the prepaid taxi booth here said that in with app-based cab services, people book their cabs before arriving at the station. "But we still get over 50 bookings a day," he said.

Inspector Ganpat Gondak at GRP CSMT said that his staff is deployed at the station entry to manage cab traffic. "Towards P D'Mello road, there is a pay and park station so drivers park their vehicles there while they wait for passengers," he said.

Not all commuters are fans of the prepaid taxi system though. Dr Charu Jain, a dentist, said that prepaid taxis charge higher for short distances. "I asked them to drop me at Mazgaon and was asked to pay R180 whereas meter taxis charge just R60. Also, no one is ready for short-distance trips."

'Drivers avoid short-distance passengers'
Deepak Singh, Commuter
'I had to go to Kalachowkie but the drivers avoid short-distance passengers. We instead get taxis near the Swami Narayan temple'

ACommuter at Mumbai Central station
'Taxi drivers here do not ply by the meter. They asked me to pay Rs 250 to Rs 300 to drop me to CSMT'

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