The government has announced new laws that will prevent disabled people in England, Scotland and Wales from being overcharged by taxi drivers and firms. The laws, which came into force on June 28, “place duties” on taxi drivers and operators to offer disabled passengers free assistance.
The rules apply to taxi drivers and the drivers and operators of private hire vehicles (PHVs), and also mean local authorities must publicly identify wheelchair-accessible vehicles in their fleets. Furthermore, the rules mean drivers will have to assist visually impaired passengers in finding or identifying the vehicle.
Under the terms of the new rules, taxi and PHV drivers could face fines of up to £1,000 if they fail to provide reasonable mobility assistance to disabled passengers taking a pre-booked vehicle. The changes, described by the Department for Transport (DfT) as the “most significant change to taxi and private hire vehicle accessibility legislation in 12 years” follow a £2.5 million package to help disabled people travel, which was announced in March.
According to the DfT, that package was designed “to help disabled people travel more confidently”, and included funding towards mobility centres across England. The package also included measures to enhance access to “lifeline” ferry services.
The new legislation is part of an update to the Equality Act 2010, an amendment that resulted from a Private Members’ Bill introduced by Jeremy Wright QC, the MP for Kenilworth and Southam, in the Midlands. The amendments were then developed by the (DfT) as part of its 2018 Inclusive Transport Strategy and cross-government commitments on improving access to taxi and PHV services.
The DfT claims the amendment could help as many as 13.7 million disabled people across England, Scotland and Wales, as well as their friends and families. However, the act does not apply in Northern Ireland.
“It is fantastic that the updated legislation and guidance will help ensure that all disabled people receive assistance when using taxis and PHVs,” said Wendy Morton, Minister of State in the DfT and MP for the Aldridge-Brownhills constituency in the West Midlands. “Disabled people account for around a fifth of the population and our Inclusive Transport Strategy is making travel more accessible for all.”