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Tuk tuk, look what Brighton’s riding
- Britain discovers autos

The tuk tuk, India’s motorised rickshaw, began service in Brighton today and was “hailed as the next new big thing”.

It has been introduced by 26-year-old enthusiast and businessman Dominic Ponniah, who confessed he was hooked when he first rode on a tuk tuk as a back packing student in Delhi in 1999.

Ponniah has chosen to spell tuk tuk as tuc tuc but there is no doubting the vehicle’s Indian origins.

He has bought 12 machines from the factory in Pune.

“Each cost me '2,000, then I had to spend another '500 on shipping, and spend a further '2,500 on modifying them here ' they almost had to be rebuilt from scratch ' and finally '1,000 for rebranding and painting so each tuk tuk ended up costing me '6,000,” he said.

But the result was gratifying as the tuk tuk was today the centre of attention in the warm July sunshine. A fleet of colourfully painted tuk tuks made their way from Brighton Marina, along the sea front in Brighton and Hove and on to Brighton station, a journey of 6 miles. The fare will be a flat '2.50 ('1.50 for children).

Each tuk tuk will be able to take three people and operate more like a bus along the predetermined route than like a taxi.

A total of 30 drivers, both young men and women, have been taken on and dressed in bespoke waistcoats made by a well-known local tailor, Gresham Blake.

Ponniah, part of whose family is of Sri Lankan origin, said: “Next May we will introduce the service with 40 tuk tuks in London, and then in Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and other cities in the UK and in Europe.”

There were some hitches before the day of the tuk tuk arrived. “It has taken me over two years to get the tuk tuks and permission (from the traffic commissioners in Brighton).”

The vehicles, which are run on CNG (compressed natural gas), are said to be environmentally cleaner as there is “almost no emission”.

The tuk tuks are seen as a possible solution to urban congestion as they are able to weave through traffic. They will be capable of 35 mph but it is unlikely they will be driven as recklessly as they are in Delhi or Mumbai.

The British tuk tuks have roll bars, side-impact protection and seatbelts and have had to meet the requirements of UK vehicle safety chiefs.

The service will provide tourists, shoppers and visitors with a safe, economical and environment-friendly means of getting around the city.

The company also says that the tuk tuks will be individually wrapped with one of 12 distinctive designs.

Ponniah said: “We want to encourage everyone to go green. The new tuk tuk service supports local government transport and sustainability strategies to make Brighton & Hove a vibrant and healthy, people-friendly city in which to travel. We’re convinced that the service will provide a fun-factor to getting around the city.”

Councillor Gill Mitchell, chairman of Brighton & Hove City Council’s environment committee, said: “This is a real coup for Brighton & Hove. Tuk tuks will undoubtedly attract many tourists as well as complimenting our existing public transport. The price is realistic and they have great environmental credentials which I welcome.”

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