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Geely's TX4 gets the green light for Victoria

Any colour you like: The London Taxi has such an easily recognisable shape that in Victoria it will not have to be painted yellow.

Purpose-built London Taxi to start putting pressure on Victorian yellow cabs


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19 Aug 2014

GEELY’S purpose-built London-style TX4 taxi could be working the streets of Melbourne as early as Christmas after winning approval to operate on Victorian roads.

While sales of the Chinese-built taxi in the southern state were given the go-ahead earlier this year, the Victorian Taxi Services Commission has only just sealed the deal to use the iconic cab commercially.

Its importer and developer, The London Taxi Company (Aust), will initially offer the vehicles for lease only, with the company saying last week it was confident the Victorian fleet would build on the successful introduction of a four-year trial involving 100 TX4 taxis operating in Western Australia since December last year.

A similar-scale rollout is now planned for Victoria, with the lease deal described as a “complete package” that includes comprehensive driver training.

The TX4s have also been upgraded during the course of the WA trial, meaning the ‘Series II’ model coming to Victoria includes uprated brakes, a more comfortable ride, alloy wheels, fuel-cooler radiators, boosted air-conditioning, a more ergonomic driver’s seat, Isofix child seat anchors and onboard WiFi.

All Geely TX4s will be powered by a 2.4-litre VM Motori diesel engine with an automatic transmission, and will reportedly consume 8.0 litres of fuel per 100km.

London Taxi Co (Aust) chief executive Evan Simeon told GoAuto that a survey the company conducted found that customers overwhelmingly preferred the London-style taxi over conventional yellow cabs.

He added that positive customer feedback had earned the London Taxi Co a nomination as a finalist for an Australian Customer Service Council award.

“From the engineering feasibility we’ve been able to determine what changes we have to make to suit the Australian conditions and now we have a vehicle that has been adapted and been modified to suit Australia,” Mr Simeon said.

“That’s part of the trial, and the trial is working.

“I’ve been involved with quite a number of motor vehicle importations to Australia and I’ve found nothing ever suits Australian conditions.

“We want the best product in the world and that’s what we’re aiming for.”

As part of the trial the Western Australian government has created a dedicated purpose-built taxi registration plate which can only be fitted to the specialised vehicles.

To qualify for the plate a model must be able to carry five passengers, have a security partition separating the driver from the passengers, a service and parts centre in its area of operation and a VIN number that identifies the vehicle as being purpose built to carry passengers.

Mr Simeon said the London Taxi Company is pushing for the same system in Victoria.

“You can’t go and buy a HiAce and convert it in to a taxi because that’s just converting a vehicle that’s designed, engineered and built to carry cardboard boxes and then deciding you’re going to carry human beings in it today. It doesn’t work,” he said.

Mr Simeon said a stringent selection and training program ensured that the Perth fleet was being operated only by trustworthy drivers, and in the course of more than 60,000 fares not one driver/passenger altercation had been reported.

He said a similar process would be implemented with the Victorian rollout.

“Imagine selling an aeroplane to someone who doesn’t know how to fly. It’s all about protecting the brand.” he said.

“The Western Australian government expressed interest for drivers. To be an applicant you had to have been a taxi driver in Western Australia for the last 12 months continuously.

“That way the government had all your performance data. They know how many jobs you can do in an hour, they know your behavioural patterns, they know if you had any complaints against you, demerit points etc, and they graded the applicants.

“We picked the cream of the drivers and then we honed them again to get the cream of the cream of the crop. Therefore we have the very best drivers. Then we put them through a training school.”

For the Victorian trial, the London Taxi Company will extend the program of driver training.

“For the next stage we are going to embark on a reinduction program and that will be our standard,” Mr Simeon said.

“There will be special certification to become a London Taxi driver. We will do driver fatigue courses. There are too many drivers out there who are fatigued and it’s a failing in the system.

“We are going to do advanced driving courses on closed circuits to show what the vehicle can do and how to drive safely.

“And thirdly we will do driver etiquette courses – how to deal with children, how to deal with the elderly and how to deal with the general public,” he said.

Establishing a Victorian parts and service centre is the final piece of the puzzle before the Geely TX4’s meter starts running in Melbourne.

Mr Simeon said he was confident the infrastructure would be ready within the next four months.

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