No increase in wheelchair accessible taxis in Harrogate despite licence changes to tackle 'cab curfew'

There has been no increase in the number of wheelchair accessible taxis in Harrogate despite licensing changes to try boost travel options for disabled people.

By Jacob Webster
Wednesday, 13th July 2022, 10:20 am
Updated Wednesday, 13th July 2022, 10:23 am
Taxis at the rank outside Harrogate's Victoria Shopping Centre.
Taxis at the rank outside Harrogate's Victoria Shopping Centre.

Harrogate Borough Council removed a limit on the number of licenses available for these vehicles last June after complaints that wheelchair users were being “cut off from society”.

There were just 22 wheelchair accessible taxis in the district at the time - and now that figure remains the same.

Jackie Snape, chief executive of Disability Action Yorkshire, said while the Harrogate-based charity appreciated the efforts made by the council, wheelchair users were stuck facing the same travel issues that they have had for "many years".

She said: “Disabled people are still facing unnecessary barriers to living their daily lives with one in three disabled people saying that they just don’t make journeys due to transport challenges.

"We have many examples of people missing medical appointments and social events because they just couldn’t get there.

"In recent times, due to the risk of Covid, many disabled people are reluctant to travel on public transport, viewing taxis as a much safer option – if they were available.

“Reliable, accessible, transport is key to an independent life. There is still much that can be done in all areas of public transport to improve this.

"We have an amazing district and it would be so good to be able to promote this as accessible to all.”

Mrs Snape added there is "very low" availability of wheelchair accessible taxis at peak times and during evenings in a problem which she previously described as a "cab curfew" on disabled people.

These concerns were first raised in a council-run study which concluded wheelchair users were suffering from a “great deal of anxiety” over worries they could be left stranded.

Before the licensing changes were introduced last June, taxi drivers were worried that an unlimited number of licences could “deregulate" the trade.

However, those fears that a wave of new drivers could flood into Harrogate have not been realised.

Harrogate Borough Council said while the overall number of wheelchair accessible taxis has not increased, there are now more hackney carriages than private hire vehicles which gives disabled people "greater flexibility" as these can be hailed at ranks without the need to pre-book.

A council spokesman said: “There is no easy way to encourage both private vehicles and hackney carriages to provide wheelchair accessible vehicles

"But we hope over the coming months, the figure will increase to further allow customers who use wheelchairs to go about their lives.

"The demand for new wheelchair accessible vehicle plates is self-limiting by virtue of the upfront cost of the vehicle and cost of maintenance. And from our initial observations, there has been no devastating impact on trade, as suggested.

“We will continue to promote wheelchair accessible vehicle plates to both private vehicles and hackney carriage holders to ensure the current demand for the service is met.”

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter