Yellow Taxi: Kolkata’s “King of Roads” now face threat of extinction

The Yellow Ambassador Taxi, an icon of the city of joy is slowly heading toward death as its number has declined sharply in the past few years, shows recent transport department data. The once famed “King of Road” is synonymous with other exclusives like the Trams, Victoria Memorial and Rosogolla is down with steep fuel prices and revised emission norms. Only 7000 Taxis run on the roads daily, before the pandemic the count was around 18,000.

The worst part is 2500 more Taxis are set to be scrapped by 2025 as their commercial life of 15 years will come to an end by that year. The number of Taxis has already dwindled and with the inception of App-cabs the once-predominant Taxis have lost their ground to the former and have been existing merely as an icon. The double whammy of the pandemic and skyrocketing fuel prices have further crippled the Taxi business with most of the owners dumping their cabs and giving up business as it turned unfavorable.

“A Bharat Stage VI Taxi costs a crude amount of 8 Lakhs. The sharp rise in operating costs and low returns owing to the non-revision of fares have forced many to quit the cab business. Besides banks are not giving loans for buying Cabs as many cabbies have defaulted on loans. So even if the operator tries to stick to the business he doesn’t have much choice,” said Sanjiv Roy, Joint Secretary of Bengal Taxi Association.

Yellow Taxis used to be a prestigious form of transport in the city during its heydays, the present Ambassador model was first produced at Hindustan Motor’s Uttarpara plant in 1957. They came and became immensely popular in a very short span of time. The number of Taxis on road started plummeting in 2014 after the Hindustan Motor plant was shut. Therefore, in the last 9 years, not a single new Taxi has hit the road rather the numbers kept falling.

The yellow cabs are still a symbol of this city which is grossly shown in films shot in Kolkata. Transport Minister, Snehasis Chakraborty said, “It’s a pity we are losing a carrier that invokes nostalgia and is a part of Kolkata’s history. But the yellow cabs are being phased out following a Court order on emission norms. We are encouraging transporters to bring e-vehicles as new Taxis”.