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TAXI PROPOSALS: Council looking to REMOVE cab wheelchair requirements and INCREASE taxi age limits

Updated: Mar 26, 2022


Image credit: West Suffolk Council

West Suffolk Council are looking to remove all Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) requirements for Hackney Carriage Vehicle (HCV) licensees and increase the maximum licensed vehicle limit to 15 years old to allow more time for the trade to recover from the pandemic.


The council is asking for views on changes to its policies around the provision of wheelchair accessible vehicles and to the maximum vehicle age limit. Taxi drivers and customers are being urged to have their say on a proposed package of licensing policy changes intended to support both the trade and residents.

The proposed changes are in response to the findings of an independent survey and study, carried out in the Autumn.


The Council’s existing WAV policy, which has been in place for a number of years, requires taxi drivers, to have a WAV when replacing their vehicle. Cabinet agreed to review this policy in September 2020 and in August last year, a month before the survey was due to launch, the Council was presented with a petition and letter of concern by many taxi drivers.


The review looked at WAV provision, the advantages and disadvantages of merging the taxi zones (West Suffolk currently has two zone, Zone A for the former Forest Heath and Zone B for the former St Edmundsbury) and the age of the fleet.

Consideration was also given to future requirements of an environmentally friendly taxi fleet and the impact of COVID-19.


The independent survey asked taxi drivers, operators, wheelchair users, other disabled people and people who have mobility issues but would not identify themselves as being disabled, about their experience of WAVs.


The review found that:

  • WAVs do not meet the needs of all people with disability and mobility issues. As such, a mixed fleet of vehicles is required

  • There is not a balanced provision of WAVs across the two taxi zones. However, there would likely be sufficient provision to meet current demand, if the zones were merged. A previous independent study in 2019 found there was a shortfall in zone A which could impact on availability

  • That a large proportion of the fleet, including a third of WAVs, would need replacing in 2025 when the Council’s vehicle age limit of 10 years comes into effect.

  • That there is not sufficient public rapid charging infrastructure in place yet for the trade to switch over to electric vehicles and there is also a need for more advances to be made in relation to electric vehicles that can be a wheelchair accessible vehicle.

A full report of the study, and a summary version have been published on the Council’s website at www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/Council/Consultations/consultation-listing.cfm.


As a result, the Council proposes a package of licensing changes to it Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Conditions Policy Handbook. These are:

  • To remove all Wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) requirements for Hackney Carriage Vehicle (HCV) licensees

  • To merge the two existing taxi zones in West Suffolk into one single zone

  • To increase the maximum age of vehicle limit to 15 years old to allow more time for the trade to recover from the pandemic, and for advancements in EV charging technology, infrastructure and vehicle options. This new age limit would still mean those taxis emitting the highest carbon emissions would be removed from the roads in 2025.


The three proposals should not be considered in isolation to each other. The changes to the WAV requirement for instance will not happen without the changes to the taxi zones.


A Council spokesperson said: “We have listened to both taxi customers and taxi drivers and hope they find this as a workable solution that will allow us to address the current imbalance of WAV provision without having to stick to our existing WAV policy.


“Our longer-term aim is still to work together with the taxi trade to ensure we have a thriving, safe, accessible and greener fleet. That will still include a level of WAV provision and we will still have a legal responsibility to ensure that the needs and safety of the travelling public is met. This will require further policy changes as we approach 2030.


“But in the shorter term, we recognise that the taxi trade needs to recover from the impact of the pandemic, and that the trade plays a significant role in supporting our local economy, including leisure, tourism and education.”

People can give their feedback on the package of proposed changes here. The consultation will run until 18 May 2022.

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