Councillors meet today to decide whether to push ahead with implementing the drive, first agreed in 1994, to make all Granite City cabs wheelchair accessible.

But the ruling has long provoked anger, with taxi drivers arguing they have to shell out thousands on the new vehicles – despite many disabled customers being unable to use them.

New legal advice from the UK government has also revealed that there is “no mandatory requirement” for the rule from a legal standpoint.

The opposition SNP group have indicated they will try to throw out the rule today.

But council officers have recommended the authority push ahead, with fears raised that disabled groups and drivers who have bought new cars could pursue legal action if there is a u-turn now.

A council spokeswoman said:”Currently 54% of Aberdeen’s taxi fleet are accessible vehicles.

“In 2012 Aberdeen City Council’s Licencing Committee set out a policy of a gradual progression towards a 100% accessible vehicle taxi fleet and settled on a date of June 2017 by which the exemption would no longer apply and all vehicles required to be wheelchair accessible. This date was amended to June 2018 by Full Council in May 2016. Operators have been given considerable advance notice.

“It is the view of officers that the policy remains the best method of ensuring the council complies with its obligations. It is important to note that the policy refers to the taxi fleet only, and not to private hire vehicles.

“The intention behind the policy however is that any person should be able to access any vehicle in a taxi queue or hailed on the street.”

Stephen Flynn, SNP leader, said: “As someone with mobility issues, I know that a lot of people struggle to access these supposedly accessible vehicles.

“Equality means we need to meet the needs of everyone and we will seek to get the council to look again at this policy.”

Tommy Campbell, north-east regional representative for the Unite union which represents many drivers, called the councillors to develop a “common sense approach” to the ruling.

He said: “The councillors should apply a healthy dose of common sense, I would call on them to finally abandon this policy for good.”

Breckland District Council responds to taxi access warning

Research released by Muscular Dystrophy UK named Breckland District Council among a list of 15 local authorities in East Anglia which it claims have no current plans to respond to a law change.

But, council chiefs say “members felt that further national guidance was needed in order to reach an informed decision” on how to apply legislation. A change in the law, which came into force in April, means taxi drivers can now be fined up to £1,000 if they refuse to transport wheelchair users or attempt to charge them extra.

The law also states their taxi or private hire vehicle (PHV) licence could be suspended or revoked by their licencing authority if they fail to comply with the new law. However, Muscular Dystrophy UK says that only applies to drivers on council lists of wheelchair accessible taxis.

And the charity has revealed that a Freedom of Information request showed 15 councils across East Anglia, including Breckland, had no current plans to produce such a list.

A spokesperson for Breckland Council said: “We are aware of this change in legislation relating to taxis and a report was considered by members in March, in advance of this coming into force in April. “At the meeting, members felt that further national guidance was needed in order to reach an informed decision, and that it would be more appropriate to wait until a clearer picture has emerged of how the legislation has been implemented nationally. “There are a small number of licensed wheelchair-accessible vehicles in the district and we have not received any complaints about the availability of these vehicles or of these companies refusing to carry a wheelchair. “Our committee is due to consider this decision on 22 November.”

However, disability campaigner Doug Paulley, who carried out the research, said: “It is disappointing that the government’s intent in bringing in this legislation is being undermined by the failure of many councils to undertake the required office work, meaning that taxi drivers can continue to discriminate against wheelchair users with impunity. “While conducting this research, it became clear that many councils simply didn’t think to create them until prompted.”

Taxi drivers ‘are being fined £200 for picking up passengers at Cheltenham Railway Station’

They say they keep being caught out by the automatic numberplate recognition system

Taxi drivers Pete Ballinger and Neil Harvey outside Cheltenham Railway Station.

Taxi drivers allegedly face hundreds of pounds in fines because they keep being charged for dropping off and picking up people at Cheltenham Railway Station.

Three drivers from Andy Cars in Cheltenham are facing fines which could top £600 between them.

They say they keep being caught out by the automatic numberplate recognition system which is in place at the station which charges motorists who stay there longer than 20 minutes.

Each of them have received fines of £100, which would rise to £200 if they were not promptly paid.

But the cabbies say they are only staying in the car park for a few minutes while they pick up and collect customers – and their on-board computers can prove it.

He said: “If that’s the case that means we can’t pick up and drop off at the station, and that can’t be right. If you want to pick up a disabled person you want to stop as near to the station as you can.

“It’s our livelihoods, it’s our jobs. We go there every single day. I can go there five times a day myself.

“It’s very frustrating. Now they’re reluctant to do drop offs just in case they get fined.”

ANPR systems use cameras to capture images of the vehicle and the licence plate on their arrival and when they leave the car park to calculate whether a motorist is liable for a fine.

A spokesman for APCOA said: “The ANPR system provides 20 minutes of free parking for dropping off and picking up passengers. We cannot comment on individual cases without further details.”

APCOA have been contacted for further comment.

source: http://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/

St Albans taxi drivers refuse to transport Thameslink commuter because of his wheelchair

Dom Hyams wants everyone to be part of the #AccessRevolution
Dom Hyams wants everyone to be part of the #AccessRevolution

Another shocking tale of discriminatory behaviour by taxi drivers has emerged in St Albans, after a man with brittle bones disease revealed that some cabbies point-blank refuse to transport him.

The upsetting revelation was aired at a public meeting at St Albans district council, during a forum on Thameslink services.

Dominic ‘Dom’ Hyams, of Harpenden, who uses an electric wheelchair, told councillors he was often left stranded at local stations by taxis.

He told Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) representatives at last Thursday’s (2) planning scrutiny committee meeting that, generally, his experience was ‘very good’ as he calls station staff ahead of his departure, and the “friendly hardworking staff at St Albans, Harpenden and St Pancras always try and deliver a great service”.

He regularly commutes to St Pancras, which is close to his job at Assist-Mi, an assistance and customer service app.

Dom went on: “For many years I have found myself in need of using a taxi to get me home from St Albans to Harpenden when something goes wrong on the line.”

Although GTR gives him a special docket to enable taxi-drivers to recoup payment later, when there are service problems, he has found that “all taxi drivers at the rank now refuse to take the dockets from Thameslink staff, as they are not being paid within the 30 days payment terms. Frankly I don’t blame them.

“Many say they often are sent back forms if they are not precisely filled in. Thirty day payment terms can be up to 60 days or not at all. A couple of drivers will go beyond what is expected of them, and offer to still take me and my wheelchair but in recent weeks, they have both said that due to their struggle to get the money, they too would have to stop doing the docket work as it feels like they are doing it for free.”

However, he also faces difficulties when offering cash, as while most drivers have accessible taxis they “are still refusing to take wheelchair jobs” and he has been left to wait ‘indefinitely’ at St Albans City Station.

Dom said: “I believe in the main [they do so] because they can make this choice without any repercussions.”

He told GTR officials that “the docket system needs to be revised, it isn’t working.”

And he called upon St Albans district council, which has a statutory duty to license private-hire vehicles and drivers, to do more to protect those in wheelchairs.

He added that if there are no taxis willing to transport him to Harpenden, he is forced to contact “one of my parents to get me, who live over half an hour away. This is on the back of a long day at work, now delaying my journey home by hours.

“There needs to be a genuine punishment for cab drivers refusing to take wheelchair jobs. Having so many accessible taxis seems pointless, without the attitudes of the drivers changing and them realising they have a duty to take work from all individuals.

“The experience in London is completely different, with black cabs happily accepting all wheelchair jobs. They would lose their badge if they got caught doing such things.”

This follows revelations in this paper last year about a St Albans woman in her 60s complaining to the government about her shoddy treatment, when a taxi driver refused to take her to the Abbey Theatre, because she had a wheelchair.

Cllr Richard Curthoys, chair of the council’s licensing and regulatory committee asked Dom to discuss his ‘shocking’ experience further with him.

After the meeting, Michael Lovelady, head of regulatory services at council, said: “We are sorry to hear of Dominic’s experience at St Albans City Station.

“We have not previously had a complaint by him or anyone else about taxis refusing to take wheelchair users at the station. We’ve spoken to Dominic and asked that if this happens again, he should take a note of the driver’s plate number. We will then investigate.”

Mudassar Yasin, former general secretary of the now disbanded St Albans and Harpenden Taxi Association, said: “I’m disappointed that is the situation, but not surprised, as these sorts of incidents are happening on a daily basis.

“Some of the excuses drivers come out with are ridiculous.”

He suggested customers complain to the council, to prompt action from the authority.

Mudassar, who is director of Arena Taxis, said that his drivers were kept busy providing transport to residents in wheelchairs, particularly from Grove House, Grace Muriel House and other local nursing homes.

source: http://www.hertsad.co.uk/news/st_albans_taxi_drivers_refuse_to_transport_thameslink_commuter_because_of_his_wheelchair_1_4884336

Refused taxi ride because of guide dog

Paralympic double gold medal winner Libby Clegg, 26, suffers from Stargardt disease, a rare inherited condition that leads to the loss of central

TAXI drivers in Loughborough have left a Paralympic double gold medal winner stranded on the side of the road – because they didn’t want her guide dog in the car.

And the shocking incident hasn’t happened just once, but seven times at least.

Rio Olympian Libby Clegg, 26, suffers from Stargardt disease, a rare inherited condition that leads to the loss of central vision, that will eventually lead to a complete loss of sight.

And speaking to the Echo she says that on at least seven occasions in the last two years, taxi drivers in Loughborough have just driven off and left her and her guide dog Hatti, waiting for help.

Sometimes she has been left standing at Loughborough train station for half an hour waiting for a taxi with cabs just driving off.

This has also happened to her at least 20 times in London.

Libby, who lives in Loughborough, won gold medals in both the T11 100m and T11 200m sprints at the 2016 Rio Olympic games.

She told the Echo: “It is just ignorant, and I am just left absolutely shocked sometimes because I can’t believe what has just happened.

“Some people just don’t think dogs should be in the car, but it still isn’t an excuse to just drive off and leave someone stranded waiting for a taxi

“I think the best advice to anyone who has had similar difficulties to myself is to stay strong.

“I have learned that you really need to be able to speak up about issues like this.

“People need to know just how annoying and upsetting it can be when simple things like being able to get a taxi are made harder by ignorant and rude taxi drivers.

“I have sometimes admitted defeat and just walked home late at night.

“I really feel that sometimes it is just Hatti that is discriminated against, but also sometimes I definitely take it personally, just because I have a visual impairment doesn’t make me different to anyone else.

“Some taxi drivers are really helpful, and really good, but I have had too many bad experiences now that I just prefer to use my own private one.

“Hatti is part of my family now, I have had her for two years, but also she is a working dog, she is clean and very well trained, so I just don’t understand why people still have this stigma and won’t take myself and her in the car.”

Libby is an ambassador for the charity Guide Dogs and Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan recently attended an event run by the charity in Parliament, to show her support for a move that taxi drivers should receive disability equality training when getting their licence.

Mrs Morgan told the Echo: “I think it is outrageous that this has been happening, and it just shows that the call for the equality training is real.

“It is very worrying to hear from so many people who have been illegally turned away from taxis because they travel with an assistance dog.”

http://www.loughboroughecho.net/

Bristol: Taxi drivers filmed turning away disabled passengers

Taxi drivers in Bristol are breaking the law by turning away some disabled passengers, an ITV investigation has found.

The City Council says it will launch an inquiry after we filmed hackney drivers telling a woman in a wheelchair they couldn’t give her a lift.

Kate Sweetman, who uses an electric wheelchair because she has multiple sclerosis, missed a concert after travelling from her home in Chippenham to Bristol because no hackney cab could take her to the venue.

ITV West Country filmed with her in Bristol city centre as four out of five drivers she approached said they were unable to help:

Reasons they gave included the size of her chair or weight restrictions on their vehicles. One didn’t have suitable ramps to get Kate into the back of the vehicle. Kate says her chair is no wider than a manually operated one.

“It makes you feel like a second-class citizen,” she said. “It smacks your disability in your face. Everywhere should be suitable for anybody to use. Your human right should be for you to use anything the same as anybody else.”

The chair of the Public Safety and Protection Committee, Cllr Sultan Khan Chair, told us drivers were committing a criminal offence by not taking Kate.

“They shouldn’t be doing that,” he added. “We can suspend their licence, we can revoke it if necessary. The bottom line is the hackney vehicles are wheelchair accessible and nothing can prevent them from taking passengers, whatever their disability.”

He said the local authority would be investigating the findings and reviewing its policies. It also intends to carry out undercover spot-checks.
The City Council issues just under 1,000 hackney cab licences in Bristol.

The Bristol Disability Equality Forum told us Kate’s experience was ‘depressingly common’.

source: http://www.itv.com/

Calls for taxi drivers to undergo disability awareness training

Research shows nearly half of guide dog owners have been illegally refused a ride in the past year because of their animal.

That’s what MPs are discussing with the introduction of a Private Members Bill by Andrew Gwynne MP that is being debated in Parliament today.

According to the Guide Dogs charity, there is an ongoing issue with guide dog owners being illegally turned away by drivers who do not want to carry their dog.

New research by the charity shows 42% of blind or visually impaired people were significantly more likely to be turned away by drivers because of their dog, while 38% of guide dog owners have been illegally asked to pay an extra fare for carrying their dog.

The charity said being discriminated against in this way is not only distressing, it can also stop people who are living with sight-loss do everyday things that most people take for granted.

Rosemary Howell, 28, is visually impaired and lives in rural Cambridgeshire.

She told Sky News she had been refused by three different taxi drivers because they did not want to take her dog, Una, who she has had for about two years.

The drivers had been given disability training but she said the experience left her feeling vulnerable and she would like there to be tougher penalties.

She said: “Even when I got in a taxi they didn’t seem that bothered and I felt very unwanted.

“Why should I have to be different from everyone else just because I have a disability and I have something that will help me?

“Taxi drivers need educating because then they might have a bit more empathy with service users who have guide dogs or assistance dogs because they understand that dog needs to go with the owner in the front.

“A lot of taxi companies say you have to have the dog in the boot, and you can’t have that because it has to go with the owner.

“If education is there to teach these people this is the law and this is what service dogs are, I think life for a disabled person will be a lot easier.”

Both the Licensed Private Hire Car Association and the National Taxi Association are backing the bill while Transport for London, which looks after 35% of England & Wales’ licensed vehicles, is introducing mandatory disability equality training for drivers.

Uber says any driver who refuses to take a guide dog will permanently lose access to its app and risks losing their licence.

source: http://news.sky.com/

Carlisle cabbie wins five-month fight to get parking fine quashed

A cabbie given a £70 parking ticket as he picked up a pensioner in a wheelchair has won his battle to have the fine quashed.

Jimmy Shankland, 61, was furious when a traffic warden slapped the fine on his taxi’s windscreen – despite knowing he was about to pick up an elderly couple from outside Carlisle’s Scotch Street Post Office.

To his astonishment, the civil enforcement officer suggested that the couple – an 85-year-old blind woman in a wheelchair and her 88-year-old husband – should move to a shop loading bay 120 yards away.

It would have taken him 45 seconds to get the elderly couple into his taxi but he was ticketed before he could do, said Mr Shankland.

After battling for five months, the taxi driver has finally overturned the fine, proving it should never have been imposed. He lodged two appeals against it with Cumbria County Council and both were rejected.

So he took the case to the national Traffic Penalty Tribunal – and won.

In his ruling, adjudicator Edward Solomons said Mr Shankland had not parked illegally on the morning of May 20.

Nor should not have been fined.

Mr Solomons accepted Mr Shankland’s explanation that he was legally obliged to collect his pre-booked passengers.

The Adjudicator also expressed surprise that the warden involved suggested sending the elderly couple to a shop’s loading bay 120 yards away, across a busy city centre road junction.

He said this was inappropriate given their age and the woman’s disability. “I’ve never been so upset,” said Mr Shankland, from Belah.

“I’d arrived in to Scotch Street to pick up my pre-booked passengers and was about to put down my ramp when an ambulance appeared. There was ample room for it to get past. But I moved my taxi anyway to make more room.

“That was when the civil enforcement officer appeared and told me I’d have to move my taxi because it was causing an obstruction. It wasn’t.

“There was plenty of room.

“I explained my situation, saying that I’d arrived to pick up a disabled passenger and her husband. It would have been illegal for me not to pick up her as I’d been booked. I told him it would take less than two minutes to get her in the taxi.

“But he suggested that they should move to the loading bay outside Tysons. That was 120 yards away on West Tower Street, and across a busy junction. Then he told me: ‘Move now or you’ll get a parking ticket.’

“Then he issued the ticket. I was appalled.

“If the enforcement officer had left me to do my job, it would have taken 45 seconds to get my passengers in the taxi.”

After his appeal was twice turned down by the county council, Mr Shankland refused to back down. A taxi driver in the city for 16 years, he lodged a final appeal with the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.

Giving his reasons for upholding the appeal, Mr Solomons said: “I was surprised at the suggestion by the civil enforcement officer (CEO) that the vehicle should be moved to the loading bay.

“Apart from the fact that this was inappropriate in the light of the disability of the passengers and the distance of the loading bay, it seems to me that the CEO may have misunderstood the difference between loading and boarding/alighting exemptions…

“Essentially, I find there was no contravention because the taxi was stopped for the exempt purpose of allowing pre-booked passengers to board.”

Commenting on that ruling, Mr Shankland added: “It should never have gone this far. I’ve lost two days work fighting this. Perhaps the Council should give its officers more training to be sure they know the rules.”

The Adjudicator’s ruling was welcomed by the couple Mr Shankland was collecting that day, Jack and Jean Hood, of Newlaithes Avenue, Morton.

“It should never have happened,” said Mr Hood. “Jimmy’s always given us good service.”

Mr Shankland was supported by Wayne Casey, chairman of the Carlisle Taxi Drivers’ Association.

He pointed out that taxi drivers are entitled to wait as long as it takes to get a customer in and out of a vehicle.” By law, taxi drivers cannot refuse to give disabled people in wheelchairs a lift or charge them extra.

A Cumbria County Council spokesman said the authority felt the ticket was correctly issued but it accepted the Adjudicator’s decision.

source: http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/

Leeds taxi and private hire firms ‘treat disabled people as second-class citizens’

Disabled people in Leeds are being treated like “second-class citizens” by taxi and private hire firms, a campaigner has claimed.

Nathan Popple, who has severe disabilities due to cerebral palsy, claims to have been quoted £108 for a one-way trip in a wheelchair accessible car for a 5.6 mile journey from his Adel home to Armley. .

The 18-year-old is behind the Accessible Leeds website, which rates services in the city on how they cater for disabled people.

The quote came after his wheelchair accessible car became unusable after an accident. He claims to have been rejected travel by private hire drivers in Leeds, while drivers of Hackney carriages, or black cabs, often fail to stop for him or refuse to help him in or out of their vehicles.

In a letter of complaint sent to operators, MPs and Leeds City Council leaders, he said major firms in the city “treat disabled people as second-class citizens”.

He continued: “Complaints about these companies need to be taken seriously and real action needs to be taken against them. “At the minute Leeds feels like a no-go area for disabled people.”

Mr Popple said that despite many private hire firms advertising that their vehicles are wheelchair accessible, prices are “awful” for disabled people.

He claims other private hire firms offered the Adel to Armley return trip for £60 or £30 but offered either limited times or refused advanced bookings.

“There are endless stories of taxis not showing up, driving away or refusing to stop for disabled people, refusing to state a collection time or simply overcharging,” he said.

“Disabled people have a massive amount to give to our communities and to our city. I am not asking for special treatment, I am asking for fairness.”

A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council said: “We are always very concerned to hear about taxi and private hire drivers in Leeds who do not treat all passengers equally and will be investigating Mr Popple’s complaints.

She explained that all new taxi or private hire licence applicants receive customer care training that emphasises fair treatment for all, although the council has no control over charges levied.

The council can revoke private hire licences if complaints are received and proven. Hackney carriage drivers must also abide by the Equality Act 2010 or face possible prosecution.

Neither the Leeds Private Hire Drivers Association nor Unite the Union’s Leeds Hackney carriage branch were available to comment when contacted by Yorkshire Post Newspapers.

Read more at: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk

 

Union calls for taxi fare equality after disabled Leeds man quoted price ‘10-times higher than usual’

A taxi and private hire drivers’ group has condemned claims that a disabled Leeds man was quoted 10-times more than usual for a 5.6 mile trip.

Javaid Akhtar, branch secretary for the Yorkshire Professional Drivers’ Association at the GMB union, said he was “gobsmacked” by prices put to 18-year-old disability campaigner Nathan Popple.

Mr Popple, who has severe disabilities due to cerebral palsy, claims to have been quoted £108 for a one-way journey in a wheelchair accessible car from his Adel home to Armley.

He was quoted £60 for the same journey as a return trip by another firm and £30 by another, although those companies offered either limited times or refused advanced bookings.

In a complaint to operators, MPs and Leeds City Council, the Accessible Leeds founder also highlighted instances of drivers refusing to stop for disabled people, not stating collection times or overcharging.Mr Akhtar believes that drivers and companies “should know better” than to discriminate and called for equality.

Javaid Akhtar is branch secretary of the Yorkshire Professional Drivers’ Association at the GMB union. “£108 is absolutely silly. For 5.6 miles it should be £8 or £9 – if an able bodied person is paying that why should we treat disabled people any different?

We should treat them on an equal basis,” he said. “Something needs to be done to educate the licence holders and try to bring it to their attention.“

We should respect all human kind and treat people with dignity and respect.”

Mohammed Shabir, from Unite’s Leeds taxi section, said Hackney carriage drivers all undergo equality training and help people in wheelchairs.

He said: “We are not all like that [not stopping for disabled people] – if we were we wouldn’t be granted our licences.”

Leeds City Council can revoke private hire licences if complaints are proven.

Hackney carriage drivers must also abide by the Equality Act 2010 or face possible prosecution.A council spokeswoman said it was “concerned” by the allegations and plans to investigate them fully. The council has no control over private hire fares.

Read more at: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/

Taxi drivers threaten strike action over Cambridge rail station plans fearing ‘chaos’ and clashes

MP Daniel Zeichner
MP Daniel Zeichner

Taxi drivers are threatening strike action and launched a petition to save Cambridge station rank fearing “chaotic” scenes and clashes with other road users if it is moved.

Cambridge Hackney Carriage Association, which represents more than 200 taxi drivers, fears changes at the rail station will mean they are being sidelined as transport bosses “pander to cyclists and buses”.

The association is being backed by Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner.

Paul Bradley, General Secretary of the association, said: “We are concerned that the public Station Road rank where it always has been near the station is being taken by stealth. It is in everybody’s interest for it to remain there and for taxis to have access through the bus gate so they can safely exit away from the Station Road rank instead of the congestion at the new drop off/pick up point which they have allocated to taxis, deliveries and the public all in a little area. I think this will be chaotic and a lot worse than is currently there now.

“There are other options to consider which can work better without pandering to just buses and cycles. We are doing our best to avoid demos and strikes but if we are not listened to and our views at the least considered, I fear this may happen.”

He added: “We have started an online petition to ‘Save the Station Rd Rank’ and hope the public to get behind this too as its their rank and the will be affected greatly too.”

The petition says: “They plan to relocate the Station Road public taxi rank to an obscure location. Cambridge Hackney Carriage Association (CHCA), a voluntary organisation, are campaigning to keep the public taxi rank, that has been serving the public for decades.

“The operational taxi rank is currently close to the bus stop, flats, shops and most importantly, it’s seconds away from the station doors. That makes it part of the hub. Why is this important? New plans will mean the public will have to walk for several minutes, possibly pulling luggage in adverse weather conditions (rain, cold, snow, etc) to the far end of Station Road where they have to cross a busy junction to get a taxi. Public safety cannot be compromised.

“This will affect everyone including people with disabilities (wheelchair users), the elderly, lone travellers, visitors, tourists, families with young children. Consequently this will affect customer experience and will inconvenience rail users.”

Part of CB1’s highly anticipated Station Square will open this month, station operator Abellio revealed.

The area right outside the existing station building will provide space for a taxi rank, disabled parking, short stay parking bays and drop-off points.

Rising bollards will be fitted in Station Road, meaning only walkers, cyclists, buses and some delivery vehicles will be able to access the interchange directly. Taxis and cars will use the northern access road to get in and out of this part of the development.

Read more at http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/