TUK-tuks are set to hit Cambridge as a possible rival to the city’s taxi firms.
Plans to introduce the diminutive threewheel carriages to the city’s streets will be considered by Cambridge City Council’s licensing committee next week.
The auto rickshaws are most closely associated with the bustling streets of Asian cities, such as Bangkok and Delhi, but they could help to ease congestion in the centre of Cambridge.
If approved, the tuk-tuks will be primarily used to convey tourists across the city during guided tours, but they could be used as private hire cabs.
But taxi bosses have raised concerns about the safety of passengers given the lightweight nature of the vehicles.
A similar scheme in Bath was scrapped after two passengers were injured when a tuk-tuk rolled over.
Two children were also hurt in a “freak accident” in Brighton after a tyre blowout.
Glenn Hall, chairman of Cambridge City Licensed Taxis Ltd, said: “I don’t think they are a safe form of transport.
“I went on one of them in a foreign country and it was very dangerous. You only have to look at the accidents in other countries to see the risks and having one of them tearing up a bus lane could be a problem.
“It was bad enough when we had those pushbike rickshaws on the streets.
“Because they would be pre-booked, they wouldn’t worry taxi drivers as competition, but I would be concerned about their safety.”
The first tuk-tuk application has been made by entrepreneur Malcolm Fulcher, but council officers warn if his bid is successful “it is likely that other operators may also look to set up in the district and the council cannot limit the amount of licences it issues”.
Officers add that “public safety is paramount” and all vehicles must meet exacting standards to obtain a licence.
Motorcycle safety expert Bernard Adams, manager of Camrider Motorcycle Training, said the tuk-tuk could be a safe form of transport if licensed properly.
He said: “The tuk-tuks running in India or Thailand would not comply with safety standards for the UK, but ones used here could meet approval. If they were doing under 30mph, then I think it would be a good way to get about town.
“They’ve been introduced in Brighton and they enjoyed some success.
“Like motorcycles, their footprint is very low and they can do 150 miles to the gallon.”
He said most tuktuks were now fourstroke and had very low ccs.
The city council will discuss the issue on Monday.
The 3-wheeled taxi ■ Tuk-tuk, a three-wheeled motorised rickshaw, is named after the spluttering noise emitted from its engine.
■ They’re very popular in the Indian sub-continent and Far East, particularly in busy cities such as Mumbai, Bangkok and Delhi.
■ Models proposed for Cambridge would carry a driver and two passengers, would have seatbelts and a maximum speed of 35mph.