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GOVERNMENT STATISTICS SNAPSHOT: Wheelchair taxi and PHV accessibility in England


Image credit: Dynamo Motors

In 2023, the landscape of licensed vehicles in England saw 13% of all vehicles being wheelchair accessible, a figure consistent with the previous year.


This statistic highlights the ongoing disparity between taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) in terms of accessibility, revealing a significant gap in services available to wheelchair users.

Across the nation, 55% of all taxis were wheelchair accessible, a significant proportion compared to PHVs.


London stands out with an exemplary 100% accessibility rate among its 15,100 taxis, adhering strictly to the Transport for London’s ‘Conditions for Fitness’ taxi licensing policy. This policy mandates that all taxis must be capable of accommodating wheelchair users, ensuring that the capital city offers inclusive transport options for all.


In contrast, outside London, only 39% of taxis met this standard. However, several large cities such as Birmingham and Manchester have managed to match London’s performance, with all licensed taxis in these cities being wheelchair accessible.


The situation is markedly different for PHVs. In London, a mere 1% of these vehicles were wheelchair accessible. This figure, although disappointingly low, is slightly better in the rest of England, where 3% of PHVs offered wheelchair access. The low percentage in metropolitan areas, including London, highlights a significant service gap for individuals reliant on private hire transport for their mobility needs. This discrepancy between taxis and PHVs points to an urgent need for more inclusive policies and regulations to ensure equitable access across all forms of transportation.

Regional variations in wheelchair accessibility among licensed vehicles are quite pronounced. The West Midlands, for instance, stands out with a notably higher proportion of wheelchair accessible vehicles. More than 30% of all licensed vehicles in this region are wheelchair accessible, a significant lead over other areas in England. This suggests a more proactive approach by local authorities in the West Midlands towards inclusivity in transportation. However, this proactive stance is not uniformly observed across the country. There are regions where less than 5% of licensed vehicles are wheelchair accessible, reflecting a lack of standardised policies and highlighting the uneven distribution of accessible transport options across England.


The data illustrates a broader trend: metropolitan areas generally have higher proportions of wheelchair accessible taxis, yet they lag behind in terms of accessible PHVs. This urban-rural divide in accessibility can be attributed to the concentrated regulatory efforts and resources in metropolitan areas, which often have higher demands for public transport services. Yet, it also signals a critical need for rural and smaller towns to improve their accessibility standards to provide better mobility solutions for all residents.


The sustained low percentage of wheelchair accessible PHVs across the country indicates a significant challenge that needs to be addressed, especially as the number of taxis drop. The lack of accessible private hire options not only limits mobility for wheelchair users but also restricts their ability to engage in daily activities with the same ease as other citizens.

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