Call taxi services in Chennai have come in handy for me whenever I travel there from Singapore. I have generally been pleased with it. This time, though, the experience was hardly positive, making me think that India should look beyond California-based Uber and into home-grown companies such as Fast Track as well.
I typically book a 10-hour package every day of my stay in Chennai as I hardly stay indoors there in an effort to take full advantage of my visit.
On December 11, I booked an Indigo cab with Fast Track, opting for only a six-hour package from noon. From my home in Kilpauk I went to the Kirk in Egmore first (to meet the Pastor) at 12.30 and then to the Spencer Plaza on Mount Road.
I reached there around 1.15pm and gave the driver Rs 100 for lunch, requesting him to return in an hour since I had to be in Mandaveli by 3.30pm.
The Fast Track cab at the Spencer Plaza car park
Futile Calls: When I returned to the car park around 2.30pm, the driver was missing. I made 10-15 calls to his mobile number but he picked up none. I then made several futile calls to the Fast Track office but each time I was told I would be transferred to the Complaints department and none would answer there.
On a few calls when I was lucky enough to be connected to the complaints department I was unable to get any meaningful response. Ineptness and apathy on every count! Even when I told them I would have to call the police they did not seem bothered. “Do whatever you want” seemed to be their attitude.
The next morning I was to fly back to Singapore and I was running out of time. I had left some of my important belongings in the cab, so I had to wait for the driver to return.
Rowdy Behaviour: Around 3.45pm the driver surfaced and started shouting at me for making calls to the Fast Track head office. I did not feel like continuing with that cab as the driver was first unreliable and next was downright rude. So I took my things out and told him I no longer needed his service. He asked for Rs 600 more and when I questioned him about it, he started using abusive language against me and warned me of dire consequences if I did not meet his demand.
He behaved like a thug, to say the least! Not wanting to continue the argument and face further embarrassment, I paid him the money he demanded and moved away.
In effect, I missed out on my personal commitments, lost precious time, faced inconvenience in having to look for an alternative cab and ended up paying Rs 700 (including Rs 100 that I gave him for lunch) for a six-km ride!
Background checks: Am I to assume that Fast Track will have done any background checks at all for that driver who went by the name Muthu?
Why only Fast Track at Airport?: What I dread more is that Fast Track is the only taxi company operating at the Chennai airport. So, inevitably, the next time I land in Chennai I will have to rely only on Fast Track for transportation. The only other choice passengers have is to go for a prepaid taxi service that uses decades-old Ambassador cars that are hardly fit for the road. The only time I took that the taxi had broken down after hardly a couple of kilometres of travel.
Why are passengers not given better transportation choices at the airport? Why has monopoly been given to Fast Track there? In corrupt India anything can happen.
Tighter screening of taxi drivers and companies operating in Chennai are needed, whether it is Uber or Fast Track to make rides safe and pleasant for passengers!
My post on Uber – https://joslinv.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/uber-corrupt-india-and-crime/
G Joslin Vethakumar