Disabled experts who have worked with the designers of a new “black cab for London” say they hope it will improve accessible transport in the capital.
The new “hackney carriage” was launched this week by Nissan, with the manufacturer claiming that its NV200 London Taxi had been designed for “superior comfort, space, convenience and accessibility”, and that it was 50 per cent more fuel efficient than other cabs on the market.
Versions have already been unveiled in Tokyo and New York, and Nissan said its designers had placed a “particular focus” on the needs of passengers with mobility issues.
Nissan hopes the taxi – based on its NV200 compact van – will receive full “London taxi certification” later this year, and should be seen on the streets of both London and other UK cities late next year, with an electric version appearing the following year.
Among the access features are sliding doors, adjustable seats to provide more space for wheelchair-users, high-visibility handles, and a wider and higher passenger doorway.
Assist UK, which leads the national network of Disabled Living Centres, has been working closely with Nissan to ensure the vehicle is as accessible as possible.
Alan Norton, chief executive of Assist UK, who gathered together a team of disabled experts to advise Nissan’s engineers and designers, said: “We have put a lot of effort into making sure they get it right.”
He compared the new vehicle to Doctor Who’s “Tardis”, because there was more space inside than there appeared to be from the outside.
Although he warned that it was impossible to meet “everybody’s requirements”, and there were still some improvements that needed to be made, he said Assist UK was proud of its work on the project.
He said he hoped the new vehicle would eliminate some of the problems faced by disabled people who tried to travel in one of the existing black cabs used in London, including the difficulty of safely securing wheelchairs.
Norton said the project had been a “unique opportunity” to advise on accessibility at the design stage of a new product.
He added: “I only wish we could do it more often. It means accessibility is built into the product right from the word go.”