Today there is such a thing as a free ride. Forty of London’s iconic black cabs have hit the streets and they’re giving out complimentary fares to celebrate. Between 12.30 and 2.30pm, hail a London Taxi and say “free ride Friday” and they’ll drive you anywhere within the bounds of College Street, Circular Quay, Kent Street and Liverpool Street.
It’s all part of a campaign to bring over a fleet of the classic cabs from the UK. “We’ve got 40 on the road at the moment, and plan on having 100 by the end of the year both here and in Melbourne,” says Nickolas Mikhael, CEO of taxi booking platform Rydo. “We plan to go across the whole of Australia.”
Attempts to bring the London Taxi to Sydney have failed in the past, but Michael Jools from the Australian Taxi Drivers Association attributes that partly to a perceived higher cost. “Acceptance by the public is where the flop is,” he says. “People have the perception that they may be dearer, but taxi prices are regulated and they are no dearer than regular taxis.”
Earlier this year the City of London introduced new regulations that mean any new taxi will have to be zero-emission capable and offered incentives for de-registration of older models that use diesel. Chinese car manufacturer Geely is building the next generation of London Taxi – the TX5 – which will be fully electric. It’s somewhat unfortunate that Sydney will end up with the ageing, pollution-producing fleet but Mikhael says the electric model will be joining the fleet here as soon as it’s available. “Definitely,” he says. “I’m really excited about the TX5.”
He’s confident the bigger vehicle (five passenger seats) can provide a better overall service and presents better value. He adds that by using existing taxi plates they’re not contributing unwanted noise to an already saturated market.