New £1,000 fine for taxi drivers who will not take wheelchair users

Taxi drivers who refuse to pick up wheelchair users or attempt to charge more for transporting them could be fined up to £1,000 under new laws tackling discrimination.

The penalties will come into force from 6 April and will oblige taxi and private hire cars to take wheelchair users in their wheelchair if their vehicles are able to, as well as providing appropriate assistance. It will be an offence to charge any additional fare for the service.

The rules will apply across Britain for taxis and private hire vehicles designated as wheelchair accessible – including all black cabs in London and taxis in many other cities.

Drivers discriminating against wheelchair users face fines of up to £1,000 and could lose their licence, unless they have an exemption for medical reasons.

Announcing the legislation, the transport minister, Andrew Jones, said: “We want to build a country that works for everyone, and part of that is ensuring disabled people have the same access to services and opportunities as anyone else – including when it comes to travel.

“People who use wheelchairs are often heavily reliant on taxis and private hire vehicles and this change to the law will mean fair and equal treatment for all.”

Disability charities, which have long campaigned on the issue, welcomed the move. Robert Meadowcroft, the chief executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said it was “a victory for all people with disabilities who experience daily struggles with accessible transport”.

He said such struggles could prevent disabled people from having a job and playing an active part in society, adding: “This is a positive and very welcome step in the right direction which we hope will not affect the number of accessible taxis being made available by companies because of the duties now being placed on to drivers.”

Transport for All’s director, Faryal Velmi, said the charity was pleased the government had dealt with the issue. She said: “Through enacting section 165 of the Equality Act finally disabled people will have protection in law against such discriminatory and unfair practices. We now urge the government to ensure that more is done to incentivise the private hire vehicle industry so to increase the amount of wheelchair accessible cabs.”

She called for more training for taxi drivers to improve the treatment of disabled passengers.

The government said it would be consulting on further plans this year to address the barriers faced by disabled people using all types of public transport.