Ambitious radio taxi service fails to meet expectations in Bhopal

Two days after state urban administration minister Kailash Vijayvargiya inaugurated the cab service under which 100 radio cabs are plying in Bhopal, residents gave a thumbs down to the service.
Hindustan Times | By HT Correspondent, Bhopal
UPDATED ON AUG 02, 2014 06:26 PM IST

The start of radio cab service in the city by Bhopal Municipal Corporation had generated some hope among the residents that there will be some improvement in urban transport.

Two days after the state urban administration minister Kailash Vijayvargiya inaugurated the cab service under which 100 radio cabs are plying in Bhopal, the residents have given a thumbs down to the service on account of its high passenger fare.

Compared to private taxi operators, the radio cab service started by BMC is quite expensive, raising questions whether it would be commercially viable in the long run and whether it would be able to compete in the local market.

Bhopal City Link Limited (BCLL), a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) company to operate and manage the public transport system with private sector participation in Bhopal City, had started this project to operate and manage 100 radio cabs in Bhopal city through a private operator on monthly premium basis (Rs 2,000) per radio cab per month payable to BCLL.

According to BCLL officials, the air-conditioned radio cab (Swift Desire) costs Rs 50 for the first two km and subsequently Rs 23 per km. The contract is for a period of five years after which it would have to be renewed with a new a fleet of cabs.

Residents, with whom HT spoke on the issue, said such expensive fare in Bhopal won't click with the people, adding that the project was doomed to fail until the fare is lowered. Tushar Banarasi, a shopkeeper at 10 Number, said it was another example of "acche dhin aayengey".

"When government starts some initiative, you expect it to be cheaper and reliable compared to private sector, but here it is the reverse," he said. Ovais Rizvi, a government official said in a lighter vein, "This fare must include both to and fro charges. They are perhaps charging for both sides."

Private taxi operators, who are the direct competitors, are keenly watching the operation of the newly launched cab service. "I don't understand how they will be able to compete with the private operators. We charge just Rs 8.50 for Indica cab per km and Rs 850 for 80 km within 8 hours here," said Anil Kumar Pillai, who owns Uday Tours and Travels, Bhopal.

However Devinder Tiwari, additional CEO BCLL has something different to say. "This is a radio cab on call in which the passenger will be charged from the point where he boards the cab. There are other features like the passenger will get a printed receipt, also there is a GPS based navigator in the cab because of which the drivers cannot cheat people who are coming to the city for the first time. So, it has many features, which justify the fare that is being charged," he said.

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