Tuk tuk arrives in Glasgow, Scotland

By Alastair Dalton and Jane Bradley
THEY are a common sight on the streets of Mumbai and Bangkok. But now the iconic tuk tuk could be coming to Scotland for the first time – carrying tourists on sightseeing trips around the streets of Glasgow. • Trains and boats and even planes, but Glasgow has never seen anything like the tuk tuk – yet. The motorised rickshaw is set to hit the city’s street under taxi driver Pat Donnelly’s tourism venture. Montage: Clive O’NeillTaxi driver Pat Donnelly is awaiting delivery from Thailand of a motorised rickshaw, which he plans to operate on a timetabled service to transport visitors around the main tourist destinations in Scotland’s biggest city.

Donnelly, the first person to be issued with a public service vehicle licence for a tuk tuk in Scotland, plans to charge passengers £10 a head for a one- hour trip around the city.

The open-sided three-wheelers, which have been credited with reducing air pollution in busy Asian cities, are named after the sound of their idling two-stroke engines.

Called the Scottish Tuk Tuk Experience, Donnelly’s venture will transport tourists along a designated route past sights including George Square, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and the Glasgow Museum of Transport, ending up at the veterinary school on Bearsden Road.

“I think they will be a sensation in Glasgow,” said Donnelly. “It is such a novel way of travelling round and having a look around the city. It will let people see a whole different side to Glasgow.”

The £14,000 vehicle, a specially customised white and silver version of the traditional tuk tuks found in South-east Asia, has already arrived at the Suffolk port of Felixstowe after being shipped from Bangkok.

The tuk tuk is expected to be delivered in about a month following checks by officers from HM Revenue and Customs.

“I’ve never been to Thailand and I haven’t even any idea what Thailand looks like,” said Donnelly, who plans to ask Scottish brands to sponsor his venture. “I want to give mine a Scottish theme, even though it’s an oriental vehicle.”

The taxi driver, who hopes to ultimately run a fleet of the vehicles, first got the idea for a Scottish tuk tuk more than a year ago after spotting cycle rickshaws on the streets on London and Edinburgh.

“I wanted to do something similar,” he said. “But I didn’t want a pedal version. This allows six people to sit comfortably. I think it will be exceptionally popular.”

Last year he travelled to the south of England to test drive a vehicle before putting in his order with the Thai manufacturer.

“They are very comfortable, and they can go as fast as 50 miles an hour,” he added.

Martin Breslin, VisitScotland’s strategic relations executive for Glasgow, said: “Tourism is a real hotbed for entrepreneurialism and we know that visitors are always looking for the next new experience to enhance their stay in Scotland.

We’re always interested to hear about new ideas and tours which might appeal to the millions of visitors who come to Glasgow every year.”Tuk tuks to be used in Britain need safety modifications to bring them up to the required standards, such as the installation of seat belts, strengthened overhead and side impact protection, and improved braking. In some cases, this can cost more than the vehicles themselves.

Donnelly’s public service vehicle licence was issued by the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland earlier this month and he is now in the process of applying for a special licence to carry fares from East Dunbartonshire council, where he is currently already registered as a taxi driver.

Several previous plans to operate passenger-carrying tuk tuks in Scotland have failed over the years, and had faced opposition from taxi and rickshaw companies.

An operator which ran 12 tuk tuks in Brighton was among firms which proposed a service in Edinburgh four years ago, but the operation never got off the ground after facing immediate opposition from the city’s taxi drivers and a rickshaw firm. The operators eventually withdrew their application for a licence.

Some tuk tuks have ben successfully introduced in the UK. A single vehicle, which carries just two passengers, is currently operating in Salcombe, South Devon. The only tuk tuk to have been in commercial use in Scotland was run by the Bombay Cottage restaurant in Hamilton, which used it as a delivery vehicle for a short period, but later disposed of the vehicle.

“We just thought it was a bit dangerous for the roads around Hamilton,” said a member of staff.

Auto rickshaws can be found in many Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, the Philippines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, as well as in Guatemala, Peru and some African countries such as Ethiopia, Sudan and parts of Egypt. Many auto rickshaws follow the original design of the Piaggio Ape C, from 1956, which was originally based on the Vespa.

n_adalton@scotlandonsunday.com

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Source: http://news.scotsman.com/news/Cabbie-changes-tack-with-tuk.6573462.jp

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