Cor blimey! London black cabs on their way for city pick-ups
By Ma Yue
LONDON black cabs are set to hit Shanghai’s streets in October, though with higher fares than existing city taxis.
As Geely’s China-made TX4 taxi is the same model as the famous black cabs of the British capital, they have been nicknamed “London cabs” by operator Shanghai Qiangsheng Taxi Co.
These spacious vehicles are primarily aimed at providing a taxi service for elderly and disabled customers.
Qiangsheng, the city’s biggest taxi firm, won the contract to run 200 cabs. The first batch of 50 cars will go into service around the National Day holiday in early October, said Zhou Wenhua, director of the company’s operations.
According to Zhou, the London cabs will have a starting fare of 19 yuan (US$3) — 5 yuan more than the current flagdown rates in the downtown area.
The charge for each kilometer after the initial charge will be 2.6 yuan — 0.2 yuan more than standard taxis charge.
The Shanghai Transport Commission did not confirm this, saying only that prices “will be decided by the market.”
London cabs will have accessibility fittings and take bookings mainly through dispatch systems to carry passengers with special requirements.
According to the commission, priority will be given to disabled and elderly people who use wheelchairs. The London cabs can also be flagged down.
The new taxi has two fixed seats facing two foldable seats at the back. There is no front seat beside the driver, with the space instead left for luggage.
A ramp is fitted to make it easier to get a wheelchair onto the vehicle.
Zhou told Shanghai Daily that the company will hold training for its very own “London cabbies” and allocate a designated team of mechanics.
Shanghai taxi companies Qiangsheng and Dazhong had vehicles equipped to carry wheelchair users back in 2008 but most have been phased out.
Taxi operators blamed this on costs, as wheelchair-friendly taxis charged the same fare as standard cabs but were more expensive to maintain.