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DIVIDED: Cabbies across the UK were TORN whether ALL licensed taxis should be wheelchair accessible

Image credit: LEVC

Taxi drivers across the UK were divided in their opinion as to whether ALL licensed taxis should be Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs).

In England, 54% of all taxis were wheelchair accessible in 2021 while just 2% of Private Hire Vehicles (PHV) were wheelchair accessible. This is similar to the proportions in 2020.

Outside London 15% of all licensed vehicles were wheelchair accessible in England. However all 13,400 London taxis were wheelchair accessible as required by Transport for London’s ‘Conditions for Fitness’ taxi licensing policy.

In England outside London 14% of all licensed vehicles were wheelchair accessible. However this varies by area and vehicle type: 81% of taxis in metropolitan areas were wheelchair accessible areas. When looking at PHVs, only 1% of licensed vehicles in London were wheelchair accessible, but this increased to 9% in rural areas.

TaxiPoint asked UK readers whether all ALL Hackney Carriage taxis in the UK should be WAVs. The responses were divided based largely on experience and location of working.

George Bathgate, an Edinburgh taxi driver, said yes to all taxis being WAVs. George said: “It keeps it fair across the board. I think it was back in the 90s all the black cab Hackney taxis had to be converted or replaced. It resulted in many a good taxi being put off the road as it was mandatory.

“I had to change my fx4 to a fairway in Edinburgh. We all thought it was over the top due to the amount of wheelchair passengers we got. No joy either do it or we will put you off the road.

“Those were the days before the buses were able to take them.”

Brian Coleman, a London cabbie, said: “Disabled people are still human beings, no licensed taxi should be a saloon car. As a London licensed taxi driver of 45 years, I’ve never had elderly passengers complain.”

Mick Elliott from Gateshead made a case for both sides of the argument. Mick said: “I don't think they all need to be WAVs, but for those of us who are I think we should be entitled to something from either the council or government as an incentive.

“On a like for like car to be converted the owner will pay a huge sum of money extra for the conversion.”

Cabbies against the idea said some elderly customers struggle to get in and out of a WAV and prefer a car. There were also concerns around the affordability of WAVs.

Angela Davies said: “In a small town we don't have that many wheelchair passengers and now because taxis have to be wheelchair accessible you can't get a taxi anymore at night. Drivers quit when they changed over because they can't afford one.”

Robert Bate said: “Not all Hackneys need to be WAVs. I work late night shifts and on the very rare occasion have had folding wheelchairs, which can easily stowed safely in the boot.

“The number of permanent wheelchairs are quite low and don’t constitute every Hackney driver using a WAV.”

Daniel Langwost said: “Not everyone wants to sit in a WAV especially for airport runs. These London cabs are the most uncomfortable cars I have been told by many of my customers.”

Disabled access to taxis and PHV services are likely to come under scrutiny soon.

In new proposed government Taxi and PHV Best Practice Guidance it is noted: ‘For some passengers in wheelchairs, only vehicles which enable them to board, alight from and travel whilst remaining in their wheelchair are accessible and it is important that sufficient vehicles of this category are available to provide an acceptable service.

‘Other wheelchair users may be able to transfer onto the seat of a car, with or without assistance, with the wheelchair stored in the vehicle’s boot during the journey. For such passengers, and for some ambulant disabled people, for whom high steps and large open spaces may be difficult to negotiate, traditional WAVs may be challenging to access.'

The guidance adds: ‘A truly inclusive transport system is one where a mixed fleet is available, where wheelchair users can travel as easily as anybody else, and this means ensuring that there are sufficient suitable vehicles to serve their needs. Though for some passengers, particularly ambulant disabled people whose ability to walk is impaired, the high steps and large floor areas of traditional WAVs can constrain their access.

‘Licensing authorities should assess the demand for WAVs within their jurisdiction at least every three years and take appropriate steps to ensure that the supply of suitably accessible vehicles meets the demand for them.’

A further Bill which would prevent taxi drivers from refusing disabled passengers has also recently been cleared in the Commons.

The Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Bill aims to address inconsistencies in the Equality Act to ensure all disabled people are afforded protection from discrimination.


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