The boss of a wheelchair accessible taxi company in Norfolk that has had to close one of its services has complained that the government does not do enough to support bodies that provide transport for disabled people.
Enterprise Taxis operated an accessible service for passengers for 18 years before it was forced to stop running its fully-accessible minibuses recently due to cost pressures.
Owner John Walker told a local newspaper that he is angry and upset that the service has had to end.
He told the Eastern Daily Press: “If the government subsidised the minibuses I would buy as many as I could afford. But their monthly running cost is so high and I can’t charge my drivers anywhere near that to rent them.
“I’ve written to Chris Grayling many times in the last few years about the issue, but he only responds directly to his constituents.
“It just makes you feel like the transport department doesn’t care about the wheelchair community. I e-mailed him this week and just said: ‘You’ve done it, you’ve finished it.’”
Enterprise Taxis is still able to offer accessible transport for wheelchair users but it can no longer afford to operate minibuses that are fitted with ramps and can load passengers in their equipment into the vehicle.
The vehicles cost around £40,000 each to buy and £700 a year to run.
Mr Walker, said: “These vehicles look the same on the outside year on year, but have had four engines replaced and gone through three gearboxes.”
“We used to have 11 specific wheelchair minibuses but now we only have three. They also have to have two checks on their ramps every year, they are less fuel efficient because of the weight. I just can’t afford to keep them.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department for Transport, told the newspaper that disabled passengers must have the same opportunities to travel as everyone else.
“We recognise the important role played by taxis and private hire vehicles in helping disabled people to remain independent.
“Councils are ultimately responsible for the service in their area and they should ensure that sufficient wheelchair accessible vehicles are available to meet the demand from passengers.
“As part of our Inclusive Transport Strategy, we will be consulting on updating the best practice guidance for licensing authorities, including on how to support an inclusive and accessible taxi service.”
Image: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images