Taxi News Roundup - May 2016
Uber Launches Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Service
Uber has recently announced that it is launching a fleet of 55 WAV taxis across London, allowing wheelchair users to guarantee wheelchair access at the push of a button. The option will be listed on the app as "Uberwav', and will be fared at the same price point as the companies UberX vehicles, currently the lowest priced vehicles. Uber has launched the option in partnership with accessibility charities, including Scope, Whizz Kidz, and Transport for All, and says that it will invest £1m in the programme over its first 18 months.
Although Uberwav is only currently available in London, if successful the company is likely to expand the initiative across the UK. Uber has faced criticism in the past for having few provisions for wheelchair users, something that local councils have brought up when considering whether to grant the company a license.
UK Towns May Introduce Diesel Vehicle Fee
Drivers using diesel vehicles may soon face extra charges, after ministers announced plans to impose clean air zones throughout UK towns and cities. The plans aim to "cut the risk of cardiac, respiratory, and other diseases" by clamping down on air pollution from diesel vehicles. Last year the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee announced that Leeds, Southampton, Nottingham, Derby and Birmingham will all receive clean air zones by 2020. However, ministers have said that it's likely that clean air zones will be extended into a far wider range of UK towns and cities.
The plans will particularly affect those driving old diesel taxis, who will face charges when driving in clean air zones. However, EFRA has also requested that the plans be implemented alongside a scrappage scheme to encourage drivers to trade in diesel vehicles for lower emission options.
Guide Dog Owners Seek Revised Taxi Laws
A charity is seeking tougher penalties for taxi drivers who refuse to carry guide dog owners, according to the Glasgow Evening Times. The Guide Dogs charity states that many drivers are refusing to take guide dogs, despite current laws stating that this is illegal. The charity states that tougher penalties would raise awareness of the laws, and is calling for wider disability training among drivers.
Speaking about the campaign, Guide Dog's James White said that "[refusals happen] to people living with sight loss with shocking regularity just because they are accompanied by a guide dog. It's not only illegal, it knocks people's confidence and stops them doing the everyday things that most people take for granted'.
Drivers who refuse business to passengers with guide dogs can currently face fines of up to £1000 under the Equality Act 2010. However, prosecutions are rare, and when fines are awarded they are often as low as £50.
Local Drivers Protest "Unfair" Knowledge Test
Drivers operating under Swale Borough Council have claimed that a mandatory knowledge test is "impossible to pass', according to Private Hire and Taxi Monthly. Local firms have protested that the test - which all drivers in the region must pass before being handed a license - is outdated and confusing. The test allegedly makes reference to landmarks that have since closed down or been demolished, and makes ambiguous references to existing landmarks. Richard Kipling, owner of Starlite taxis, has stated that drivers with years of experience in the area have failed the test and been subsequently barred from operating for 6 months, at which point they have to take the test again. Kipling believes that rather than ensuring passenger safety as intended, the test is acting as a barrier to recruitment.