It is said that Mumbai-Pune intercity route is one of the best served routes in the country. I had a    somewhat different experience. Recently, we tried to take a taxi from Mumbai Airport to Pune. We went all the way from terminal 1A to terminal 1B where the prepaid Mumbai-Pune counter is. We refrained from talking to the drivers standing with their ‘cool cab’ marked cars at the taxi stand as we wanted to go through the right channel.

At the counter, the rate for shared cabs per person was displayed as Rs. 375 + Rs. 15 service charge. This rate is for shared cabs that drop people at Pune station. You are required to wait till there are 4 people who can share the cab. We asked the person sitting behind the counter for this ticket. He said we would have wait for 2 more people before he could give the ticket. We said we would wait. Now he pointed towards this person standing outside the counter, a middleman, indicating that he would do the further dealing. He asked us to wait and started calling the driver. We asked if we could book the entire cab, and were quoted a rate of 1750 + 300 for a drop to our home. At this point, we thought it would be better to talk to the driver directly to avoid middlemen.

At the taxi stand a ‘cool cab’ driver agreed to take us to Pune at a charge of Rs. 1700 inclusive of toll. This is the current rate and since this guy had the car right there we agreed. The driver put our bags in the boot and started calling someone on the phone, saying he does only local trips and his brother will take us in his car. We were apprehensive by now but we stayed. 5 minutes later an unmarked private car turns up with a driver and an extra guy who looked like a goon. Our bags are shifted and we proceed. Barely a minute out of the Airport, the extra guy quotes a higher rate and asks us to pay an advance of 1/3 rd of the total fare. An argument later we get down from the taxi with our luggage and walk back to the airport.

Another ‘cool cab’ driver agrees at Rs. 1700 and after 5 minutes of driving we get a bit relaxed. Now this guy makes a phone call and stops the car near a car rental agency, 10-15 minutes from the airport. Soon an unmarked Ford Ikon comes along that is going towards Pune and we are asked to shift to that. The driver of Ford Ikon had an argument with the 4-5 people standing there, over the fare. However he agrees coz he didn’t want to go to Pune with an empty car (without fare). We had had enough by then.

A shouting match later we succeeded in getting away from these rowdy people. We finally took a taxi to Dadar and boarded a Shivneri (MSRTC) bus and reached Pune, without incident.

Conclusion:

1. Cool cab taxi drivers are acting like commission agents, getting people out of the airport to private taxis, securing a hefty commission for themselves in the process. The driver of private taxis gets blamed and the passengers face undue harassment.

2. Don’t bother going to the Police to complain about this. They are completely hand in glove with the middlemen. There was a policeman where the second taxi driver had asked to change cars. He did not care to come over even when he heard the arguments. But he came promptly to shoo away the local taxi we hired to go to Dadar.

3. Best way is to make prior reservations in a train, go by bus (available at every half an hour) or be prepared to switch cars as many times as these people want.

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