Sri Lanka’s All Island Three-Wheeler Drivers Union is now successfully operating a city taxi service in Colombo and suburban areas using Tata Nano cars in addition to their three wheel budget taxies, Union President Lalith Dharmasekera said.
He revealed that 275 Tata Nano budget taxies have been deployed by them and the taxi service is functioning under the Three Wheel Lanka Tours and Travels Company. This company was formed by the union with the aim of uplifting the living standard of three-wheeler drivers, he said adding that some of these Tata Nano cars are owned by these individuals and the company is providing them with a call centre and other facilities for a nominal payment. The company also operates its own fleet of Nano cabs, he disclosed.
The company maintains 100 call centres countrywide employing 500 youths to enable customers to get the service of a three wheeler (metered) budget taxi or a Tata Nano budget taxi.
Three Wheel Lanka Pvt Ltd, another subsidiary of the union operates 1500 three wheelers budget taxi, Mr. Dharmasekera said. The company will arrange leasing facilities for three wheel drivers if they want to purchase a Tata Nano cab by paying a down payment of Rs. 250,000, he added. He asserted that the union has taken this initiative to streamline three wheeler services.
The city taxi service using Tata Nano cars is operating countrywide successfully so much so that the company cannot cope with the demand for hires and there are plans to expand the fleet, Mr. Dharmasekera said. He noted that their charges are very reasonable and they charge Rs. 100 for the first two km and then Rs. 40 per every other km while the three wheel Budget Taxi is charging Rs. 30 per km.
The commencement of passenger transport by three wheelers that are operating at present in Sri Lanka dates back to the latter part of 1978. The vehicle that had become most popular as a hiring car at that time was the Morris Minor. That taxi service was operated by single owners and institutions owning a number of such vehicles, employing drivers.
The three-wheeler was introduced to that hiring car service as a smaller vehicle that fulfills the transport needs of the people by providing a cheaper service to them.
The singular honour of introducing this vehicle to Sri Lanka should go to David Pieris who was a Director of Richard Pieris & Company at that time. He imported three wheelers from the Bajaj Company in India at that time and was successful in introducing the three wheeler as a hiring car service in collaboration with Hebtulabhoy and Company.