Decrease in wheelchair-accessible taxis and private hire vehicles in Worksop and Retford in 2023
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Experts suggest the limited number of licensed vehicles accessible for those with mobility difficulties in some local authorities across England and Wales is due to a lack of training and certification for the safe handling and transport of wheelchairs.
Department for Transport figures show Bassetlaw district had 120 licensed vehicles as of April, but only 23 could be used by people with mobility difficulties, down from 42 in March 2020.
Traditional taxis can be hailed from the street and do not need to be pre-booked like private hire vehicles, such as those used by companies like Uber.
There were 51 taxis in Bassetlaw, 23 of which were wheelchair-accessible.
Most local authorities require all or part of their taxi fleet to be wheelchair-accessible, but only 5 per cent of them have made it compulsory for private hire vehicles. Bassetlaw has a policy only for taxis.
There are 69 minicabs in Bassetlaw, none of which can offer a ride to a wheelchair user.
David Lawrie, of the National Private Hire and Taxi Association, said wheelchair-accessible vehicles are often too expensive for drivers to buy, with accessible electric vehicles costing about £70,000.
Across England and Wales, 237,622, 79 per cent, of the total 299,146 licensed vehicles are private hire, with just one in eight wheelchair-accessible. There are also more than 11,000 fewer taxis than in March 2020.
Mr Lawrie said: “There is a massive drop in drivers, because of lack of government support through Covid.
“Many drivers have gone into the courier business of food deliveries and are not going to come back because of the pressure and regulations on the industry.”
More local authorities started requiring disability awareness training for cabbies in 2023. Bassetlaw requires drivers of both kinds to have it.
A DfT spokesperson said: “While it’s down to local authorities to manage wheelchair-accessible vehicles in their fleet, the Government is backing passengers with disability awareness training for drivers and bolstered laws for those who fail to provide reasonable assistance.”
The DfT figures show there were five taxis and private hire vehicles for every 1,000 people in England and Wales at the beginning of April. Bassetlaw has a lower rate with one per 1,000 people.