After a tiring journey, the first thing one longs for is to return home. However, being the ever busy station that Howrah is, standing in queue is a chore.
Now, things have begun to change for the better. Howrah City Police, in collaboration with the Railways, has introduced an e-taxi service for passengers arriving at Howrah station, using which people can book prepaid taxis online.
The service was launched on April 15 to coincide with Poila Baishak, the Bengali New Year.
Importantly, such an initiative is the first at a railway station in India.
Till this service was started, one had the option of booking taxis either through pre-paid services (the yellow ones) or through radio taxi services such as Megacabs, Ola Cab, etc. With the former, one has to stand in queue, which is often tiresomely long. With the latter, it is possible to book 48 hours in advance, but one has to pay parking charges, and waiting fee when a train arrives behind schedule. Another issue is that most radio taxi providers close modifications in bookings an hour before the original requisition time for a taxi.
Taxis lined outside Howrah station (thehindu.com)
A new beginning
There are several passenger-friendly features of the new online booking service. These are as follows:
- Under the new e-taxi service, people can book 60 days in advance of their arrival at Howrah station.
- Passengers are not required to pay any parking charges even if their train is delayed for hours altogether.
- The fare charged is the one in force for regular taxis plying in Kolkata as prescribed by the state government’s Transport Department, plus a Rs 10 service charge; which is fair enough, considering the convenience offered.
Booking the service is really easy. All one has to do is to visit the official website of Howrah City Police and click on the link for Online Prepaid Taxi on the right-hand side, or one can go directly to the page.
There are five columns that have to be filled up: journey date, destination, amount, mobile number (which is mandatory) and email address. The amount in the fare column appears automatically as soon as the ‘destination’ column is filled up. A helpful thing is that as soon as one starts typing the destination, options appear as a pop-down list. The next step is a Terms and Conditions page, okaying which takes one to the online payment page; the payment can be done through both credit and debit cards.
After the payment is done with, a message comes to the mobile number entered while booking. The SMS contains a code which is to used to avail the taxi.
Screenshot of the taxi booking page (howrahcitypolice.in)
On arriving at Howrah station, one has to enter the code on specially designed kiosks installed near the exits of the old and new station buildings (two have been installed, procured from Hyderabad-based Analogies Tech India Ltd., which would be increased to six in the coming months) . Within seconds two paper slips will be dispensed mentioning the taxi number and the lane where the taxi is stationed.
Of the two slips dispensed by the kiosk, one will be driver’s copy, to be handed over by the passenger on reaching destination, and the other is the passenger’s copy.
With the normal pre-paid service, one has to search for the taxi inside the stand. Here, whichever taxi is next in line takes in the passenger, much like at airports. There is a pool of 6,000 private taxis whose status get automatically updated on the server once they pass through the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) bar gates that are installed at the station’s taxi-bays.
Those who have availed of this service over the past two-and-a-half-odd months have nothing but platitudes to offer for the Howrah police for setting up such a hassle-free service. According to a media executive from Kolkata who frequent travels by trains, the service is one of the best things that could have happened for passengers.
The not-so-net-savvy need not worry, though. This e-taxi service will run parallel to the four manual pre-paid taxi booking booths that are functional at Howrah station.
Just one more wish for this wonderful online service: an app for smartphones. Hope that happens soon!
Howrah station (worldtravelserver.com)
Written by Anushtup Haldar for Team M3.tv
Lead image: howrahcitypolice.in