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Roads in the country’s cities will soon see a new type of vehicle, with the government giving the green signal for the proposed  quadricycles to ply on them. Though called quadricycles, they are actually motorised vehicles with four wheels, bigger than a three-wheeler and smaller than a car. Quadricycles, known by different names, are common in many countries,  though they have not made an entry in India.

There has been a dispute for some time over whether a new vehicle is needed on Indian roads, with automobile manufacturers divided over its need and utility. The government set up a committee to study the proposal and it has now favoured  the introduction of these vehicles on a commercial basis within municipal limits. They will not be allowed for personal transport and on highways.

The case for quadricycles is that they are sturdier and safer than three-wheeler autorickshaws which provide connectivity even in bylanes. The vehicle is intended as an upgraded three-wheeler with better features and there is even a thinking that they will in the long run replace the autos. They are considered to be less polluting than autos. Fuel consumption and  carbon emissions will be less than those of other four-wheelers  but this advantage may not be very relevant because they will not be competing with cars  in the personal use or commercial sectors. Therefore the expectation that the country’s fuel import bill be reduced when quadricycles are widely used  may be an exaggeration. Since they are slower than cars and bigger than autos they are likely to congest the roads, especially the small roads.

It cannot be said at this stage that quadricycles will provide a better alternative to three-wheelers. There  are various factors like efficiency, convenience and economy which determine the popularity of a means of transport. When quadricycles are introduced they are bound to co-exist with three-wheelers in the foreseeable future.  There are plans to redesign the three-wheelers also in many ways. Many modes of transport like animal carts, ordinary rickshaws and cycle rickshaws have disappeared from cities, though they still exist in some areas. Popularity in other countries will not ensure that quadricycles  will survive and flourish in India. They have to suit Indian conditions and more importantly Indian perceptions and psychology.

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