Welwyn Hatfield taxi drivers warn wheelchair requirement will doom trade

PUBLISHED: 07:58 24 July 2020

Welwyn and Hatfield Taxi Drivers Association are against the council's plans. Picture: DANNY LOO

Welwyn and Hatfield Taxi Drivers Association are against the council's plans. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved

Welwyn and Hatfield Taxi Drivers Association has launched an objection against wheelchair accessible conversion plans.

Richard Bunday, while raising the issue at a borough council meeting on Monday, explained that the standardisation of vehicle type has been done without proper consultation with the drivers.

Mr Bunday said: “We appreciate that there is a need for more [accessible cabs] within the borough but believe it is neither necessary nor advantageous to anyone to insist that all vehicles accommodate wheelchairs.

“Many wheelchair-bound customers prefer to transfer into the more secure seat of the taxi and find it both uncomfortable and frightening travelling strapped into their chair, especially when facing backwards.

“The disability spectrum is vast and not all disabled customers are in wheelchairs, this is just a small proportion.

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“By limiting the scope of the vehicles provided within the fleet, you potentially create problems for customers with other disabilities and alienate other customers who require alternatives such as an executive car or six, seven or eight-seater.”

But, he acknowledges, a survey by the council found that 98 per cent of the public were in favour of this plan.

“If the council continue on this route, many Hackney carriage and private hire or chauffeur cars will choose to be licensed by another district or change careers altogether. The loss of revenue to the council already exceeds £10,000 and there will be more to follow. The council will end up without a taxi service at all.”

“Some drivers’ vehicles are near the eight year age limit or have to replace their vehicles owing to mechanical problems or accidental damage. It is wholly unreasonable for the council to expect these drivers to find the thousands of pounds extra immediately or in the next few weeks or months.”

He thinks this should instead be done when carriers enter the trade, which will replace the whole fleet in time.

In response, Cllr Fiona Thomson – executive member for governance, public health and climate change – said there had only been four new drivers in Welwyn Hatfield over the last years and this was a fair way to ensure taxis are replaced as there are no wheelchair vehicles currently in the council fleet.

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