Lack of wheelchair accessible taxis frustrates Haverhill man
A disabled man who had to pay £36 for a taxi journey of less then three miles because he was unable to source a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) in Haverhill says the situation needs to change.
Russ Fox was charged the amount for a taxi he ordered to take his brother-in-law, who like him uses a wheelchair and was visiting from Sunderland, from his home in Cross Close, Haverhill to the Travelodge Hotel.
The taxi had to be ordered from a firm in Newmarket, hence the high cost, because Mr Fox was unable to hire a WAV from a taxi company in Haverhill.
Mr Fox, 50, has since been trying to establish whether taxi firms are under any legal obligation by the local taxi licensing authority, St Edmundsbury Borough Council, to ensure they have a certain number of WAVs available at all times.
Mr Fox said: “The Authorities ‘solution’ is imposing wheelchair accessibility on future Hackney cabs licenses.
“Without a train station or large shopping centre the need for Hackney cabs is pretty much nil which explains why the two big firms are not getting any.
“I would of thought it must be possible to impose a minimum number of wheelchair taxis are made available in the evening as part of the standard taxi license, but it seems not!
“I don’t think in this day and age I should need to order a taxi from either Newmarket or for my last request Cambridge to get to a local pub for a meal and a few glasses of wine just because I’m in a wheelchair.”
A council spokesperson said: “Under the Equality Act 2010, The council’s legal obligation is to licence new hackneys as wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVS), to ensure a good proportion is available.
“Under the same Act, councils are advised to list their wheelchair accessible vehicles on their website to allow customers to pre-book.
“Hackney carriages ply for hire on council taxi ranks, whereas private hire vehicles must be pre-booked.
“Neither can refuse wheelchair customers unless the driver has a medical exemption issued by the council.
“In Haverhill, the main provider of WAVs is Star Cars which provides them mainly for school runs or the night time economy.
“The Council cannot dictate the hours that drivers and companies operate or work.”