Indian tourists in the ever-busy Oxford Street are pleasantly surprised to see the humble rickshaw plying around West End — many hop on for a ride but not all enjoy the experience: some customers are ripped off, prompting calls by officials to regulate the small industry.
Rickshaws add colour to London’s places of tourist attraction, such as Picadilly, Regent Street and the area near Buckingham Palace, but ever since they were allowed in 1998, their increasing numbers are seen as a traffic hazard, while several are known to over-charge customers.
In July, one rickshaw driver was filmed trying to charge tourists over £200 for a three-minute ride from Oxford Circus to Marble Arch. There are also complaints of Indian tourists being over-charged heavily in the Picadilly area.
The Local Government Association (LGA) representing councils now wants rickshaws to be regulated the same way as London’s black cabs and limousines, since current legislation, it says, is ‘confusing’ and ‘utterly outdated’.
Most of the rickshaw drivers are of east European origin, who also act as local guides to customers seeking to visit restaurants, prominent shops and other attractions in West End.
The LGA representing over 370 councils wants uniform licensing controls, including universal criminal record checks on drivers, and the same level of strict vetting as applicable drivers of black cabs. There are also concerns that some rickshaws are unsafe because they are not inspected.
Councillor Tony Page, LGA licensing spokesman, said: “Party limousines, party buses and rickshaws are growing in popularity and it is imperative drivers and vehicles come under the same rigorous scrutiny as licensed taxis.”
“Currently, there is a haze of regulations, which are not helping anyone: the passengers, drivers and operators. While there are many reputable firms, it is vital a few rogue operators do not drag down the sector. People need safety in the first instance but they also need to be clear on where to complain to and who is accountable.”