Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In London, cheap taxis for disabled people cut as wheelchair users face higher fares

From the London Evening Standard in the UK:

Campaigners have condemned a decision to scale back a vital transport scheme which allows disabled people to get around the capital independently.

The Taxicard scheme, launched in 2008, offers wheelchair users the chance to travel by taxi at reduced rates.

But London Councils' transport and environment executive committee voted through plans to limit the scheme without public consultation.

Recommendations for a leaner service include refusing any further applications for a card, at least until April, and only allowing users to make journeys costing up to £12.80.

Minimum charges per journey — currently set at £1.50 — may also increase, and a cap has been put on the number of journeys each card-holder can make.

Campaigners from charity Trailblazers say the scheme is essential. Only 10 out of 260 Tube stations are wheelchair friendly.

Tanvi Vyas, 27, of Trailblazers, is a wheelchair user who suffers from muscular dystrophy. She said: “The Taxicard scheme is essential to leading an active life in London.

"Many disabled people, young and old, rely on the scheme to meet friends, go shopping and even get to work.”

The charity plans to challenge the transport committee of the Greater London Authority, as well as the Mayor, and will be raising the issue with transport minister Norman Baker.

A Taxicard spokeswoman said: “The scheme has increased by 17 per cent in the last three months and there are nearly 100,000 users. We cannot keep expanding.”

Under new plans card-holders will be able to claim no more than 104 journeys per year, cutting by 30 per cent the number previously available in boroughs such as Southwark.

The transport committee also suggested the scheme be axed in boroughs that overspend.