You quote Gerry Facenna of Allied Vehicles (Business, 21 October) as saying: “We see massive growth in the coming years both for our wheelchair accessible vehicles and traditional black taxis as well.”
He was referring to the export market especially, in Europe, where saloon car taxis are the norm. This will be welcomed by users of standard-size wheelchairs there (but neither vehicles can take the larger chairs and are awkward for other disabled people to use).
In the UK, there is little growth; indeed there has been contraction outside the main urban centres. Official statistics for Scotland between 2009 and 2012 show that the total number of taxis has remained static, while taxis that are wheelchair accessible have only increased from 4,654 to 4,914 and are predominantly in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Rural areas are poorly served, if at all. The number of wheelchair accessible private hire cars has increased, but there are still only 342 over the whole country.
As to how much these accessible taxis are used, taxi drivers have to be prepared to accept wheelchair passengers.
Most do so and we recently gave an award to a cabbie in Aberdeen. But some are “wheelchair averse” and many do not operate in the evenings.
Finally, taxis are expensive and taxi use has to be affordable for people on low incomes or disability benefits. In Scotland, there is not a national concession scheme for taxis for those unable to use buses and then get a free bus pass.
The minority of local authorities which do provide “taxicard” concessions find them increasingly hard to finance.
In short, a more comprehensive approach is needed if this market is to expand.
Scottish Accessible Transport Alliance