Airport-bound passengers in hurry; long queues at toll-booth does not help

The toll on the road leading to the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) has been the source of much debate recently after the government opened up alternate routes to the aerodromme.

This move has had a dominos effect, the most important being that the system of tolling itself has changed. In the earlier set-up, you did not have to pay on the way to the airport; it was sufficient to pay on the way back.

Drivers began taking the tolled road to the airport and the alternate toll-free routes on their way back. Realising this and to prevent further losses, the firm in charge of the tolling has now decided to make the vehicles pay in advance.

But this move has sparked much ire within the community of drivers. Naveen Peter, a cabbie who makes two trips to the airport daily, says despite the availability of the routes, time is a quotient involved, so many cab drivers do not choose the alternate routes.

He explains, “Some customers have to be picked up at very specific times from their homes and dropped at the airport. So, even if there are alternate routes, because of the strict time constraints, there is nothing much that we can do.”

The problem, he says, is the increased traffic near the toll booths. Customers are in a hurry to get to the airport and not on their way home. The earlier system of paying nothing on the way to the airport is far more convenient to many, he says.

For Charan, also a driver, the big issue is 'Who pays the fare?' “The earlier system was so much easier for us. You didn't have to pay on the way to the airport. So, after dropping the customer, we would take the alternate route back,” he recalls.

The new system has led to daily fights, says Charan. “The customer almost always refuses to pay. 'Why should I pay they ask?' And some of them are capable of downright abusing you.”

Charan's views are echoed by other drivers. One even jokes, “The customers may be getting into flights. But when it comes to the toll money, even auto drivers don't abuse that badly.”

To get over these wrangles, the drivers have devised a method. “Since the toll system has started, we have started the practice of settling things with the customer before the trip begins. The customer and I will settle 'who has to pay' and 'how much to pay' before the trip begins.”

On the other hand, customers have an issue with how the cabbies try to cheat them of the toll money. A passenger, Kimaya Khashnobish, who had to go to the airport just last week, recalls: “The cab aggregator's app often tells us that the customer does not have to pay toll. But many cabbies try to swindle money off of us. And sometimes when you end up paying, apps are no help.”

She feels the government should hold an inquiry into how much money is involved in the toll transaction. “That is, not only the money that is collected at the toll booths, but also the money that goes into the cab industry,” she elaborates.

There are others who suspect foulplay. “Does anyone know how much money is involved in the toll transaction. At any given point in time, there are several vehicles lined up at the tolls. There should be curbs on the amount levied,” notes another passenger.

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