Updated: Jul 3, 2022
An award winning private hire firm in Scotland has warned it may have to SCRAP its wheelchair accessible service if they can’t charge customers more for the journeys taken.
Wellman Cars, based in Hamilton, told customers that due to the increased costs of wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs), cost of driver training and the time it takes to assist disabled passengers, it would cease the service if they could not continue charging more for it.
New Government legislation that effects England, Scotland and Wales means disabled people receiving the assistance they need will not be charged over the odds when using taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs).
The new Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Act 2022, came into force on 28 June, and is seen as the most significant change to taxi accessibility legislation since the Equality Act was introduced 12 years ago.
As part of the amendments, taxi and PHV drivers could face fines of up to £1,000 if they fail to provide reasonable mobility assistance to disabled passengers taking a pre-booked vehicle.
A Wellman Cars spokesperson told customers on social media said: “We are sorry to have to advise our loyal customers that the future of our wheelchair accessible service is in doubt.
“At present we offer a 100% safe and wheelchair service 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
“For all essential trips such as hospital visits, family trips, hair appointments, funerals and much more.
“This is a service we know our customers and their families depend on however due to Scottish government legislation this is a service we will have to possibly stop from Tuesday 28th June.”
The post goes on to say: “As our customers who use this service appreciate the additions as above, our customers have always been happy to pay an extra for the hire of this service.
“This extra charge is the same charge for a people carrier. As the vehicle is also a people carrier.
“With the Scottish government legislation we are being told that such a pre agreed charge is discrimination. This is not our intention at all.
“We purchase these vehicles to offer an invaluable service and not to discriminate. Our drivers cannot run these vehicles safety at the cost of a regular vehicle.
“We are as ever working to accommodate everyone and we apologise for any inconvenience.”
According to an email seen by the Daily Record, the council has warned they will act upon any non-compliance. The local authority’s email read: “Any alleged non-compliance may be the subject of investigation and enforcement action by South Lanarkshire Council.
“If non-compliance is found to have taken place, this could involve a report being made to the Licensing Committee which could have potential consequences for the driver or operator, such as suspension or revocation of their licence.
“The offences include refusing to take a booking from a disabled person or making an additional charge for the driver carrying out any of the driver duties.”
The Act which began on 28 June was a Private Members’ Bill introduced by Jeremy Wright QC MP. Another change will mean that even drivers granted exemption from assistance duties on account of medical needs must still accept the carriage of disabled passengers and will not be able to charge them more than others.
Disability affects 13.7 million people in Great Britain. It includes physical and sensory conditions, as well as impairments that are ‘non-visible’.
The amendments to the Equality Act 2010 have been developed by the Department for Transport (DfT) as part of work in support of its 2018 Inclusive Transport Strategy and cross-government commitments on improving access to taxi and PHV services.