Fewer wheelchair-accessible taxis and private hire vehicles in Dacorum than before pandemic
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There are fewer wheelchair-accessible taxis and private hire vehicles available in Dacorum than before the pandemic, new figures show.
Department for Transport (DfT) figures show Dacorum had 294 licensed vehicles as of April, but only 21 could be used by people with mobility difficulties.
That is a decline from March 2020, when there were 29.
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.
Most local authorities require all or part of their taxi fleet to be wheelchair-accessible, but only five per cent of them have made it compulsory for private hire vehicles. Dacorum has a policy only for taxis.
There were 176 taxis in Dacorum, 19 of which were wheelchair accessible while out of 118 minicabs, two can offer a ride to a wheelchair user.
Experts suggest the decrease is due to a lack of training and certification for the safe handling and transport of wheelchairs.
James Farrar, general secretary of the App Drivers and Couriers Union said: “Big operator firms such as Uber and Addison Lee have not set minimum availability requirements for their fleets, have not committed to minimum service standards and have not provided adequate pay or financial support for drivers to afford the premium cost of these vehicles.
“Likewise, licensing authorities have generally not insisted on such standards as a condition of operator licensing.”
David Lawrie, director 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 around £70,000.
Despite this, more local authorities started requiring disability awareness training for taxi and private hire vehicles drivers in 2023.
However, Dacorum does not require any drivers to have it.
A Department for Transport 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, including fines, for those who fail to provide reasonable assistance.”