LICENSED CAB drivers who refuse to pick up wheelchair users could be fined up to one thousand pounds.
The announcement by the Government also includes a similar fine for PHV and taxi drivers who try to charge wheelchair users more for a journey or fail to provide them with “appropriate assistance”.
The Department for Transport said that offending cabbies could lose their licence but the plan to penalise those who refuse wheelchair users has been condemned by black cab drivers in London.
Neil Martin has been driving a taxi since 2011 and said the new rules were, “hugely excessive” and “difficult to impose”.
Our trade is the only one with vehicles that are wheelchair compliant. Ninety nine point nine per cent of drivers would never refuse a wheelchair and the 0.01 per cent I assume would have a good reason. My personal view is that £1,000 is hugely excessive and very difficult to impose.
Disabled charities, who have long campaigned on the issue have however welcomed the government announcement.
Chief executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK Robert Meadowcroft said: “This is a victory for all people with disabilities who experience daily struggles with accessible transport.
“This is a positive and very welcome step in the right direction, which we hope will not affect the number of accessible taxis being made available by companies because of the duties now being placed on drivers.”
Announcing the legislation, transport minister Andrew Jones said:
We want to build a country that works for everyone and part of that is ensuring that disabled people have the same access to services and opportunities as anyone else, including when it comes to travel.
People who use wheelchairs are often heavily reliant on taxis and private hire vehicles and this change to the law will mean fair and equal treatment for all.
The new rules will come into force on April 6, apply in England, Scotland and Wales and will affect taxi and private hire vehicles that have been designated as wheelchair accessible.