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Some taxi drivers 'overcharge wheelchair users'

Some taxi drivers 'overcharging wheelchair users'

  • From the BBC news, 9 February 2015

Some taxi drivers in Stoke-on-Trent have been charging wheelchair users more than able-bodied passengers, a BBC investigation has discovered.

The city council has said no extra charge is permitted for wheelchair accessibility.

But undercover filming revealed a woman was told by one cab driver she had to pay more than "normal" people because her wheelchair "was heavy".

On average, the cost was about two-thirds more for wheelchair users.

A team from Inside Out West Midlands took black-cab journeys across Stoke-on-Trent city centre with Baljeevan Deol, a 22-year-old student, who has generalised dystonia. The condition means she cannot control her muscles, and she agreed to take part in secretly filming drivers after suspecting she was regularly charged more than her able-bodied friends.

Ms Deol and Inside Out programme production staff made 12 identical trips.

Programme producer Qasa Alom said: "Obviously we are not saying every taxi in Stoke will overcharge, but our investigation found of the 12 journeys we took, Bal was charged more every single time."

Ms Deol said: "I feel sad and angry. I'm so annoyed this happens and how much money over the last few years I've spent extra that I shouldn't have.

"They can't get away with this. I feel like I'm being discriminated against and it's just not fair."

Abdul Rauf, from the Hackney Carriage Association in Stoke, said drivers breaking the rules should be "brought to book". "There is no such thing as an extra charge for wheelchairs, so whoever is doing so is breaking the terms and conditions of their licence. We need to identify these guys and bring them before the committee to explain their actions. We in the trade do not condone this; it damages our trade."

Stoke City Council cabinet member for neighbourhoods, Joy Garner, said drivers' training included disability awareness, and "they are well aware they shouldn't be overcharging".She also said the council would consider working with disability groups so wheelchair users knew their rights. "If people use our transport services they should know what to expect and know

 
PRESS RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE from THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF TAXI USERS (NATU)
Transport Select Committee has published its report “Taxis and private hire vehicles: the road to reform” in which the case is clearly made for parliamentary legislation in the current Parliament to overhaul the rules and legislation, much of which goes back to 1847.

NATU is delighted that many of the Committee’s recommendations show a way to achieve better quality provision of taxis for users.

More liaison with taxi users
NATU strongly welcomes this: there is an urgent need to listen more to users, particularly vulnerable groups such as the disabled and those on lower incomes who are heavily reliant on taxis and PHVs. The establishment of NATU will also bring the views of users to the table at a national level. Related to this is one of the report’s most important recommendations – namely that taxis and PHVs should feature more prominently in local transport plans (LTPs) and that Government should issue guidance to local authorities to help ensure this. Currently many LTPs ignore the role of taxis especially in providing the missing link to and between other methods of public transport. This means, for instance, that ranks are frequently in the wrong place and unsigned, and that information on taxis and PHVs is absent from local authority web sites.

The impossibility of maintaining the current distinction between Hackneys and PHVs
Another helpful recommendation is to combine the legislation on taxis (hackneys which can be hailed) and private hire vehicles (PHVs – which need to be booked in advance) into one Act. However, NATU disagrees that the current distinction between hackneys and PHVs should be maintained within the legislation since the widespread use of mobile phones means that users can simply phone the number on the side of the PHV from the street. This is why users are so confused or even unaware of the distinction.

New boundaries
NATU also supports the idea of creating larger licensing districts which will simplify the process, reduce costs and fit the reality of the growth of conurbations and suburbs.
Improve the quality of taxi services
NATU welcomes the recommendation that the background of drivers should be carefully vetted and loopholes eliminated. This would avoid the current situation where in some areas drivers with criminal records, including sexual assault, are able to obtain a licence. Another essential recommendation is to develop national standards to improve the quality of taxis and their maintenance. However, it is disappointing that no specific mention has been made of the need to improve standards of driver and operator training, currently often non- existent, of a low standard, or easy to manipulate.

Conclusion – bring taxis into the 21st Century
In conclusion, the Committee has been bold in grasping the nettle, challenging vested interests and raising much-needed policy changes. There is still much detail to debate but overall NATU will be urging the Government to introduce new legislation to bring taxi travel into the 21st Century.

 
The need to retain Enhanced Criminal Record Checks for Taxi and PHV Drivers

NATU have written to Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities and Criminal Information at the Home Office concerning the Government’s plan to water down the current system of criminal checks on taxi drivers.

In the view of NATU this is quite the wrong direction and indeed NATU feel that the current system needs tightening up rather than watering down – a point we made during our recent evidence to the Transport Select Committee and for the reasons set out below.

• A far wider group of passengers are vulnerable than those highlighted by the CRB letter; especially women, children, disabled people and visitors who do not know the area. In many instances passengers are alone with the driver and sadly, even under the current licensing and enhanced checking system, there are already too many instances of assault or even worst murders by drivers. One of the speakers at our recent Conference from Rape Crisis England and Wales emphasised the under reporting of rape including by taxi drivers especially in relation to young women who had been drinking.
• There is a tendency for some magistrates to overrule local authorities who have declined to issue a license due to a driver’s criminal record.
• Another problem is that some immigrant drivers are unable to obtain evidence of a lack of criminal record and at least one authority has now suggested replacing the gap with a reference from other occupations including parking attendants.
• If the guidance from the CRB is followed it will lead to a two tier system with some drivers thinking they will no longer need the enhanced check but then if they subsequently obtain a contract needing it with all the attendant bureaucracy and time lag inherent in the process.

The Solution

Amendments could be added to the Protection of Freedoms Bill, which amends the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and is currently being considered by Parliament, to make a requirement for all hackney and private hire drivers to have an Enhanced CRB check.

 
"London Taxi Driver"

Has anyone read this poem? "London Taxi Driver" by David Dabydeen?   It follows a taxi journey from Tooting, in south London, to Waterloo and makes a lot of references to the curses of the cockney cabbie.  Is this a stereotyupe?

 
Is this a one off??

The taxi I booked last week charged me from the time he arrived outside my house – I found out afterwards the meter should have started when I got in which was 5 minutes later because I am disabled.  Is this a one off or have other people had this experience?.

 
Don't let this happen here

Last week I arrived at Brussels airport late at night and asked to take me to one of the biggest hotels in the centre.  The driver didn’t have clue and finally dropped me off in a dark street miles from where the hotel was.   We should be grateful this wouldn’t happen in Britain. 

 


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