CHENNAI: Just six months after it hiked its minimum fares, auto and cab aggregator Ola has introduced convenience and access fees that effectively raise the minimum fare for 1.5 km up to Rs 110. Users of Ola autos found the total fare for a distance of 1.5 km to 2.5 km has doubled from Rs 55-60 earlier to Rs 110-130 now. Similarly, both auto and cab users are being charged a convenience fee of Rs 35-40 for distances above five km.
Incidentally, the cab aggregator remains unregulated by the State government although the Union amended the Central Motor Vehicle Act of 1989 in September 2019 to issue licences to aggregator platforms.
While Ola did not respond to an email with queries from TNIE, Chennai commuters expressed shock over the increased charges.
"For travel of 1.3 km from Korattur to a shopping mall at Padi on MTH road, I was charged Rs 110. The fare table showed an access fare of Rs 54 charged in addition to the ride fare of Rs 54. For another trip of 2.5 km, I was shown a fare of Rs 120-130," said R Krishnan, of TNHB colony, Korattur.
Similarly, commuters, who booked cabs to Chennai Central from Ambattur Industrial Estate, said they were charged a convenience fee of Rs 38. "Suddenly for no reason, a convenience fee was introduced. The government must intervene to regulate the fares," said Ram Chandran of Ambattur.
According to auto drivers affiliated to Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the Union government regulations categorically state that 80% of fares collected from the commuter should be provided to the cab driver. "But, we have not been given any share of the convenience fee, which is 100% higher than the ride fare for short distances," said autodriver K Muthu of Padi.
While the transport department in June, following a Madras High Court order, recommended to the State government to enhance the minimum auto fares, Ola and Uber had already hiked the fares in April. The department recommended that the fares be raised from Rs 25 to Rs 40 for 1.8 km and Rs 18 per km instead of Rs 12 thereafter but the new rates have not been notified yet.
A senior official from the transport department said, "An android mobile application is being developed to enforce the revised fare for auto rickshaws. The fares of Ola cabs and autos can be regulated only when the licensing system is introduced for aggregators."
The committee appointed to study the 2019 amendments in the Central Motor Vehicle Act have already recommended modalities to implement the rules. "The proposal is pending with the government. The decision is expected to be taken soon," added the official.