CHENNAI : The upward trend of fuel prices has begun to burn a hole in commuters’ pockets. The minimum fare of shared auto-rickshaws across the city has been increased to `15 from Tuesday. Earlier, the minimum fare was `10. The fares have also been increased by `5 in every route. The fare between Ambattur to Valluvar Kottam has been increased to `35 as against the earlier fare of `30. Similarly, the fare between Ambattur and T Nagar has gone up from `45 from `40.
Shared auto-rickshaws drivers blamed the increasing fuel prices for the hike. “The diesel price was `57 per litre in June 2017, during which the minimum fare was increased to `10 from `5. Now, the fuel price has increased to `71.62. After the bus fare hike in January 2018, our per day collection increased by `600 to `800 a day, then, it gradually reduced to `300. We could not even meet our daily family needs,” said G Ganesan, a share auto driver in Mogappair West.
According to traffic police estimation, about 70,000 autos operate in Chennai, of which 10,000 are shared auto-rickshaws. The Tata Magic shared auto-rickshaws, registered under the tourist permit, do not have stage permit (to take the passengers at bus stops). They are subjected to pay heavy bribes to traffic police and transport officials, say auto drivers. “More than 80 per cent of shared auto-rickshaws are rented. Normally, each auto -rickshaw collects `2,500 to `3,000 a day. Every day we pay `1,000 to `1,500 towards vehicle rent and spend roughly around `1,000 to `1,300, we hardly take home `500 to `800 a day,” explained another auto driver, Shanmugam from Nungambakkam.
Shared auto-rickshaws remain a preferred transport service for office goers in T Nagar, Nungambakkam, Kodambakkam, Anna Nagar, Mogappair, Nolambur, JJ Nagar and Ambattur. Inadequate bus services, overcrowded buses, and slow moving of public traffic during peak hours in bus route roads have increased the demand.
Regular commuters rued that they are charged `15 for travelling from Thirumangalam to 11th Main Road which is less than one kilometre. “Even for two stops, the autos charge `15. MTC bus services should be increased at the earliest,” said K Rajan a resident of Ponni Colony in Anna NagarChennai city has 256 bus route roads. Though a majority of shared auto-rickshaws operate on bus route roads, MTC, transport and traffic police remain silent as it is highly patronised by commuters. The MTC operates about 3,100 buses in 833 routes. According to transport experts, the city requires an additional 2,000 buses to meet the transport demand.
M Chandran, general secretary of CITU-affiliated Tamil Nadu Auto Drivers association blamed the MTC for the increase in share autos in the city. “The MTC should have anticipated the population growth and planned in advance in expanding its fleet. The Transport Department completely failed in providing affordable transportation for commuters,” he said. He also blamed the Metro whose arrival hardly made a difference. “The Metro fares should be reduced immediately to promote the use of public transport,” he added.