Road testing luxury driving

THE big difference between a normal taxi and a luxury chauffeured hire car, is the space.

The vehicles, which in most cases are a Holden Caprice, are long wheeled, meaning there is more leg room in the back and space in the boot.

Tasmanian National Tours co-owner Steve Roomes said luxury hire cars couldn't be anymore than seven years old.

``Technically drivers have to be in uniform, the car has to be immaculately presented, it's got to be long wheeled, we have a rule for our drivers that the radio has to be muted and obviously there's no smoking,'' Mr Roomes said.

He said the car had to be clean at all times and the driver opened the doors for its passengers.

Cars must also not be marked.

Mr Roomes said there was a big need for the vehicle type across the state 

``It's very, very hard work,'' he said on Friday.

``We operate 24/7 and we've got eight on the road today and tonight.

``We look after the federal politicians and we have what's called a fixed rate, so they know how much it is before they book.''

Luxury hire cars are also often used by university professionals, channel seven staff and the Hawthorn Football Club when it is in town.

The government has come under fire this week, after State Growth Minister Matthew Groom was exposed for spending $152 on a eight-kilometre return luxury trip, which was cancelled at the last minute.

Health Minister Michael Ferguson also paid back $776 this week, which had been used for him to take a luxury return trip from Launceston to Hobart.

Mr Roomes said the cost of that trip was too expensive and his company would have done it for about half the price.

Chauffeured Cars and Coaches could not respond to enquires on Friday.

A government spokesperson said it was a long standing arrangement from all sides of politics that Ministers and the Leader of the Opposition had access to ministerial drivers to enable them to travel safely, given the long work hours and often late nights they had.

``This system was costing $2.4 million per year and over the past four years has been over budget by more than $1 million due to overtime and accommodation costs for drivers,'' the spokesperson said.

The driver for each minister system was replaced with a pooling system earlier this year.

``On the rare occasions when a driver is unavailable through the pool, private operators or taxis are used,'' the spokesperson said.

Cars are often booked by the department, meaning many politicians, like Mr Groom and Mr Ferguson have no choice over what kind of car is provided.

John Bayers with the luxury car he drives. Picture: Neil Richardson.

John Bayers with the luxury car he drives. Picture: Neil Richardson.