The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fifth wheel to foil faulty taxi meter

The increasing number of complaints on tampering of taxi meters has at last jolted the transport department enough to take note of the malpractice and draw up an action plan.

The department has decided to set up a sophisticated taxi meter calibration and testing unit in town for which a large plot, near the Salt Lake stadium, has been earmarked. The proposed unit will have the capacity to test at least 500 taxis every day.

By the improvised “fifth wheel method”, an extra wheel will be fitted into the vehicle, which will roll without touching the ground. This will make the reading more consistent and accurate.

The Rs 10-crore project will be implemented on a build-operate-transfer basis through a joint venture with the West Bengal Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation (WBTIDC). “We will provide the land, owned by the sports department, and the private party will shoulder the cost of procuring the equipment, construction and setting up of other infrastructure for the project,’’ said an official of the transport department.

According to the plan, the private party, which will set up and run the centre, will pay a licence fee to the transport department, the WBTIDC and the public vehicles department (PVD). It will, however, take a fee from vehicle-owners for calibration and mandatory checking of taxi meters.

Admitting that a section of taxi operators tampers with the meters, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said: “Our move is aimed at saving people from being cheated. The new unit and the new system, I think, will drastically reduce the malpractice.”

The minister held a string of meetings with his departmental officers and engineers after being flooded with complaints on faulty taxi meters. Under instructions from Chakraborty, the WBTIDC submitted the scheme.

“We expect the project to be pushed through fast, but it might take some time to complete the procedural matters, as some of the sophisticated equipment need to be imported,” said Chakraborty.

Transport department engineers felt that while some meters were rigged by taxi operators, others developed a fault for want of regular calibration.

According to WBTIDC managing director Dhiman Mukherjee, the testing process will be quick and smooth. “As the calibration will be done at an interval of three months and the meters will be sealed by the most modern method, the possibility of tampering will be less. At present, taxi-operators go scot-free for want of a calibration system,” Mukherjee added.

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