Even as Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) is getting ready to take delivery of 100 e-autos christened ‘Commuto’ to operate feeder services from metro stations, just a handful of women have volunteered to drive 32 autos from among them.
“Few women have turned up, although we sought the help of NGOs, cooperative societies, and women self-help group [SHG] Kudumbashree for the purpose. We can in fact hand over more than 32 e-autos to women drivers, since they would have more acceptability among women commuters,” metro sources said.
“Our aim was to train and hand over the e-autos that would be procured using KMRL’s funds to drivers, including women. They would have to pay a nominal rent to KMRL, while being assured of a source of daily income. There was tardy response from women drivers, although details were posted on the KMRL website and social-media pages,” they added.
Both men and women drivers of ‘Commuto’ will adorn a dedicated uniform and also have ID cards to set them apart as drivers of feeder e-autos that ferry commuters mostly on short trips from metro stations. The trial run of e-autos will commence once adequate number of them are delivered, it is learnt.
Driver members of Ernakulam Jilla Autorickshaw Drivers’ Cooperative Society (EJADCS) currently operate feeder e-autos from Water Metro’s Kakkanad terminal.
KMRL and EJADCS had reached an agreement in 2021 to operate 100 e-autos from metro stations. It had then been planned that commuters who wanted to avail their service would be issued ‘integrated tickets’ that would include the fare for metro travel and the pre-fixed auto fare that would be fixed as per the fare stage that the Government revises from time to time. This was to enable commuters to seamlessly shift from metro to autos, while also ensuring that an auto is ready to pick them up from the metro station. On its part, the metro agency had to provide parking space and recharging infrastructure at all metro stations.
Despite being Kerala’s commercial capital, Kochi has few e-autos, thanks to delays in decision-making and the pandemic playing spoilsport. This resulted in a battery-swap system for e-autos not taking off. Efforts are under way to set up recharging stations at frequent intervals in order to roll out more e-autos.
KMRL had announced in April 2022 that it would introduce 200 e-autos, while EJADCS assured another 80 of them. Commuters have been yearning for replacement of the entire fleet of diesel-run autos in the city with e-autos, since diesel autos create noise and air pollution.