Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Two Questions

Being a journalist, I can find easily the answers to these questions with a bit of legwork or by making a couple of phone calls, but at times it gives you more pleasure to wonder aloud and throw up questions instead of searching for answers which may only turn out to be silly excuses.

1. Why doesn't Chennai, instead of painfully doing up its existing airport, have a brand new airport somewhere on the outskirts? The airport is located on GST Road, a very busy road, and no matter how much you renovate or expand it, the volume of traffic on the road will remain unchanged and will increase with time. What is the point of having a swanky airport if you still have to grapple with traffic on your way to catch a flight? Why not free the road of airport traffic? -- it will be good for the road as well as for passengers: both can breathe easy.

The planners of Bangalore and Hyderabad were not fools to have built swanky new airports way outside the city. In each of these cities, passengers headed for the airport are usually free from general traffic within 20 minutes of leaving home and for the next 20 minutes they zip across breathtaking terrain, breathing some fresh air on the way, before making it on time for the flight. And the moment you step into these airports, it is like stepping from a developing nation into a developed nation. Till 20 minutes ago you were part of third-world traffic, but now you are an international-class passenger!

All this while I was mighty impressed by the Delhi airport, which has truly reinvented itself into world class. The departure lounges even have a revolving brushes that shine your shoes. Then there is the new Bangalore airport, standing in the middle of breathtaking barrenness, which could give the Kuala Lumpur airport a run for its money. But it is the new Hyderabad airport that takes the cake. It is easily India's pride, as far as the aviation industry goes. Words can't describe its handsomeness or the beauty of the landscaping that surrounds it for a couple of miles.

Chennai airport, compared to it, is like a bus-stop: it does not even have a decent bookshop or a restaurant/cafeteria. It treats domestic passengers like cattle-class who deserve nothing better than rows of chairs and electronic display boards. Even if it matches Bangalore or Hyderabad in five years from now, big deal: things should have happened five years ago!

2. Why doesn't Chennai have radio cabs yet? Okay, there are radio cabs, what we call the 'call taxi', but they are nothing but a fleet of battered, non-airconditioned Maruti vans and Ambassadors run by private operators in their respective neighbourhoods for the benefit of passengers headed to the railway station or the airport.

But when you get out of the Chennai airport, the only decent mode of transport available is the 'pre-paid taxi', which is necessarily a rickety, smelly yellow-and-black Ambassador car whose driver often begs for a tip upon reaching the destination. This is 2010 and not 1970: why should the Chennai passenger still settle for a 1970-built Ambassador which smells like a horse and which has no air-conditioning and still pay through his nose? Why can't he stride out of the airport in style and hail a Meru cab and get to his destination in style and comfort?

For the uninitiated, Meru is a company that has changed lives in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore. It runs a huge fleet of cabs, mostly airconditioned Tata Indicas, which are fitted with digital tamper-proof meters that give you a printed receipt and an automated voice system that warns the driver: "You are crossing the speed limit. Please slow down." The voice, that of a woman, can be irritating when you know your driver is speeding only because there is no one on the road for miles ahead, but it still does its job of pricking his conscience. Why should a Chennaiite still have to make do with smelly, rickety Ambassadors, whose drivers behave as if they are doing their passengers a great favour by bringing them home and sulk if you don't tip them?

Any answers?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree Hyderabad has a world class airport. They are expanding chennai airport for 1700 crores. The international terminal has definitely changed a little for good if you compare it to last year. They say they will change it. Let us see. The ATC predicts the current airport with additional runway will suffice needs till 2025. Definitely the amenities have to worked out better. Government has no funds to build such airports now. They have to give 20 lakh TV before the next assembly election. Regarding the cab service, there are new call taxi stands in airport now. Heard fast track have won the bid for five year contract for airport for 7 crore rupees. AC cabs charge a bomb. Yes we need mer type of organized cab service. Definitely one of our CM kins will take up this lucrative business in near future. As you know only the CM kins can do big business in tamil nadu. Good luck on your book. Regards VJC

janani sampath said...

i guess the cabs have been deliberately made to look limited in facilities coz the planners don't want to antagonizr auto drivers.. the rogues of the city.

As regarding, airports, I have always
wondered the same... The govt here is too busy building unwanted flyovers like the one in Cenotaph Road and North Usman....
Bad planning...

Anonymous said...

well,
there is plan for new airport in Chennai more 2016-18 plan, near Sriperumbathur.

On the Meru, its more a cartel as the current call taxi's are funded by a some politicians

Anonymous said...

Not that I know anything about the topic but I've heard tamilians on the whole are resistant to change. Probably - make that most likely - bullshit but it would explain a lot.

looney said...

people call Kolkata the boondocks but obviously we are far more advanced in terms of facilities and creature comforts .... ;o) ... come live here instead ... if not anything else your wife will be ecstatic ...

Lakshmi said...

well if you have seen the old airport of bangalore, you would think chennai is heaven..there was a time i was flying every week and that was not too long ago - just a couple of years ago and everytime i boarded a flight from domlur, it was a nightmare..we used to call it the shivajinagar busstand and the security check lines used to extend to even outside the airport main door..meru, well..i guess the lack of a good public transport system in blr lead to this..i would rather ask why autos in chennai ? that i believe is the real curse of chennai..

Deepa Raman said...

while i do agree on why the cabs should look so outdated and small...at the same time the cabs reaches your destination for 240 Rs till my place in korattur which is 21kms away. In hyderabd i pay 950RS from the airport to reach banjara hills. So meru can step in..but the passangers should be ready to pay 1000 burgs to reach. so service is good to the name of a true metro at such an afordable cost ,but the presentability is bad.thats the oldage problem of chennai.