Sep 222018
 


Download Final September 2018 report:

Interim Reports:

Data Tables:

My research examines the efficacy of the “new” law requiring taxi drivers not to discriminate against wheelchair users, commenced in April 2017. Taxi drivers face £1,000 fines for refusing to take or help wheelchair users, or if they charge wheelchair users more, but only if the local council has created a “designated list” of wheelchair accessible taxis.

The Department of Transport’s guidance states:

Section 167 of the Act (Equality Act 2010) permits, but does not require, LAs (Local Authorities) to maintain a designated list of wheelchair accessible taxis and PHVs (Private Hire Vehicles).
Whilst LAs are under no specific legal obligation to maintain a list under section 167, the Government recommends strongly that they do so. Without such a list the requirements of section 165 of the Act do not apply, and drivers may continue to refuse the carriage of wheelchair users, fail to provide them with assistance, or to charge them extra.

It recommended local authorities create their lists by October 2017. So I conducted comprehensive research demonstrating that in April 2018, less than half of taxi licensing authorities have implemented this legislation. There have been only three successful prosecutions of drivers for discriminating against wheelchair users.

Sep 052018
 

I’m finalising my submission to the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry into the effects of this year’s rail timetable disruption on passengers. I am publishing here my explanation as to why I think that it is a (little-honoured) legal requirement that most rail replacement bus services must be operated using accessible vehicles.


  • It is a criminal offence to use most non-accessible vehicles on rail replacement services. The majority of bus and coach vehicles are subject to accessibility regulations that require them to be accessible when used on rail replacement services.
  • The Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 (PSVAR) specify which buses and coaches must be accessible, and what features said vehicles must have.
  • PSVAR 3(1) and (9(b)) states that the Regulations apply to Public Service Vehicles of types specified in (2) to (7) being used to provide either a local service or a scheduled service.

Scheduled Service

  • A “Scheduled service” is defined in PSVAR 2 as:

a service, using one or more public service vehicles, for the carriage of passengers at separate fares—

(a) along specified routes,

(b) at specified times, and

(c) with passengers being taken up and set down at pre-determined stopping points,

but does not include a tour service

At Separate Fares
  • “At separate fares” is defined in Sections 5(b)&(c) of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981:

a payment made for the carrying of a passenger shall be treated as a fare notwithstanding that it is made in consideration of other matters in addition to the journey and irrespective of the person by or to whom it is made;

a payment shall be treated as made for the carrying of a passenger if made in consideration of a person’s being given a right to be carried, whether for one or more journeys and whether or not the right is exercised.

  • To give an example: I paid a fare at Northern’s Leeds ticket office during the closure of the Windermere line. Said fare included the right to travel on one return journey on the rail replacement bus between Oxenholme and Windermere. The fact that the fare included other elements (the right to travel on trains between Leeds and Oxenholme) or that the fare was not paid to the bus operator is irrelevant: the definition of “at separate fares” was met.
  • The route and times of the rail replacement bus was set out in advance and published by Northern on their webpage. The timetable stated that the bus on the outward trip was to start at Oxenholme at 1305, to drop passengers at Kendal at 1315, Burneside at 1325, Staveley at 1335, and Windermere at 1345. The bus on the return was to pick up passengers at Windermere at 1605 and at Kendal at 1625 before dropping them off at Oxenholme at 1640.
  • It was clearly a “scheduled service” for the purposes of the PSVAR. But even if it wasn’t, it is also a “local service”.

Local Service

  • PSVAR(2) states that “local service” has the same meaning as in section 2 of the Transport Act 1985.
  • S2 Transport Act 1985 states:

(1) In this Act “local service” means a service, using one or more public service vehicles, for the carriage of passengers by road at separate fares other than one—

(a) which is excluded by subsection (4) below; or

(b) in relation to which (except in an emergency) one or both of the conditions mentioned in subsection (2) below are met with respect to every passenger using the service.

(2) The conditions are that—

(a) the place where he is set down is fifteen miles or more, measured in a straight line, from the place where he was taken up;

(b) some point on the route between those places is fifteen miles or more, measured in a straight line, from either of those places.

(3) Where a service consists of one or more parts with respect to which one or both of the conditions are met, and one or more parts with respect to which neither of them is met, each of those parts shall be treated as a separate service for the purposes of subsection (1) above.

(4) A service shall not be regarded for the purposes of this Act as a local service if—

(a) the conditions set out in Part III of Schedule 1 to the 1981 Act (trips organised privately by persons acting independently of vehicle operators, etc.) are met in respect of each journey made by the vehicles used in providing the service; or

(b) every vehicle used in providing the service is so used under a permit granted under section 19 of this Act.

(5) Subsections (5)(b), (c) and (6) of section 1 of the 1981 Act (meaning of “fares”) shall apply for the purposes of this section.

  • The rail replacement bus stops on the Windermere line are each less than 15 miles from each other and there’s no point on the route that’s 15 miles from any other point, so the conditions in subsection (2) are satisfied.
  • Rail replacement buses are not operated under a S19 permit (which provides exemption from organisations whose buses are run only as a non-profit side-provision rather than as their main business) so the exemption in 4(b) is not engaged.
  • Subsection (5) gives the same definition of “at separate fares” as I discussed in relation to Scheduled Services; so, it is clear the service was “at separate fares”.
  • The exemption in subsection (4)(a) refers to Schedule 1 Part 3 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981:

5 Arrangements for the bringing together of all the passengers for the purpose of making the journey must have been made otherwise than by, or by a person acting on behalf of—

(a) the holder of the PSV operator’s licence under which the vehicle is to be used, if such a licence is in force.

(b) the driver or the owner of the vehicle or any person who has made the vehicle available under any arrangement, if no such licence is in force,

and otherwise than by any person who receives any remuneration in respect of the arrangements.

6 The journey must be made without previous advertisement to the public of the arrangements therefor.

7 All passengers must, in the case of a journey to a particular destination, be carried to, or to the vicinity of, that destination, or, in the case of a tour, be carried for the greater part of the journey.

8 No differentiation of fares for the journey on the basis of distance or of time must be made.

  • For this exemption to apply, the service must satisfy all four sections 5-8.
  • Whilst rail replacement buses comply with section 5, the rail replacement buses I attempted to catch did not satisfy sections 6, 7 or 8.

Section 6: The times and stopping points of the bus were previously advertised to the public, by various means – the attached timetable published on Northern’s website, in National Rail Enquiries journey planner, by Twitter, etc.

Section 7: Passengers were dropped off and picked up at various points not in the vicinity of Windermere, but along the route.

8: Journeys including an element from (say) Oxemholme to Windermere were priced less than journeys that only included the element from Oxenholme to Kendal.

  • The requirements in Sch 1 Part 3 of the 1981 Act are not engaged. Therefore, the service is a Local Service under S2 of the Transport Act 1985, and similarly for the purposes of PSVAR.

Regulated public service vehicles

  • As the rail replacement buses were scheduled or local services, then in the circumstances set out in PSVAR 3 (2)-(7), the vehicles in use on those services must have PSVAR certificates. Said vehicles are termed “regulated public service vehicles” (which in this context does NOT mean that they have to be registered with the Traffic Commissioner.) The definition of “bus” and “coach” is as specified in PSVAR 1:

“bus” means a public service vehicle designed and constructed for the carriage of both seated and standing passengers which is of category M2 or M3 (as defined in Annex II(A) to the 1970 Directive) and has a capacity exceeding 22 passengers, in addition to the driver;

“coach” means a public service vehicle designed and constructed for the carriage of seated passengers only which is of category M2 or M3 (as defined in Annex II(A) to the 1970 Directive) and has a capacity exceeding 22 passengers, in addition to the driver;

  • “The 1970 Directive” means Council Directive 70/156/EEC of 6 February 1970 which defines Category M2 and M3 as “vehicles used for the carriage of passengers, comprising more than eight seats in addition to the driver’s seat, and having a maximum weight not exceeding (M2) / exceeding (M3) 5 metric tons.” (Which doesn’t add anything to the definition.)
  • The effect of subsections 2, 4 and 5 of PSVAR 2 is that as of 2018 all buses with more than 22 seats in use on local or scheduled services must have accessibility certificates showing compliance with PSVAR Schedule 1.
  • The effect of subsection 7 of PSVAR 2 is that as of 2018 all coaches with more than 22 seats must have an accessibility certificate showing compliance with Schedule 1 of PSVAR unless they were first used before 1st January 2005 or manufactured before 1st October 2004.
  • PSVAR 4 exempts public service vehicles that are off-road, used under a S19 permit (as not-for-profit incidental provision by bodies whose main business isn’t public transportation, which is not the case here), used for secure transport of prisoners etc., specifically designed to carry injured or sick people, used by / for a Minister or government department or in the service of a visiting force, or:

a vehicle in respect of which twenty years have elapsed since the date of its first use on a road and which is not used to provide a local service or a scheduled service for more than 20 days in any calendar year.

Schedule 1 PSVAR

  • Schedule 1 requires regulated public service vehicles to each have at least one wheelchair space, and a wheelchair accessible boarding lift or ramp. In other words, any vehicle with a certificate indicating compliance with this Schedule must be wheelchair accessible.

Summary of effect of PSVAR on Rail Replacement Buses

  • As of 2008, ALL buses and coaches with 22 or more seats in use on Rail Replacement services must be wheelchair accessible EXCEPT:
    • A) Rail replacement services which DO NOT have a published schedule, and EITHER:
      1. don’t have information pre-published about the service and only transport between two stations OR
      2. have more than 15 miles between every stop on their route and are thus not local or scheduled services.
    • B) Buses or coaches that have been in use on a road for over 20 years and aren’t currently used on local or scheduled services for more than 20 days a year; and
    • C) Coaches first used before 1st January 2005 or first constructed before 1st October 2004.

S175 Equality Act 2010

175 Offence of contravening PSV accessibility regulations

(1) A person commits an offence by—

(a) contravening a provision of PSV accessibility regulations;

(b) using on a road a regulated public service vehicle which does not conform with a provision of the regulations with which it is required to conform;

(c) causing or permitting such a regulated public service vehicle to be used on a road.

(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.

(3) If an offence under this section committed by a body corporate is committed with the consent or connivance of, or is attributable to neglect on the part of, a responsible person, the responsible person as well as the body corporate is guilty of the offence.

  • It is therefore a criminal offence to operate buses and coaches with 22 or more seats but no wheelchair spaces on rail replacement services, unless the conditions A, B or C in Paragraph 60 apply. Both the body or bodies corporate, and the individual manager(s) within said body or bodies, are liable on summary conviction to a maximum £2,500 fine for each and every breach.
Apr 272018
 

Pie chart: Taxi licensing authorities S167 list by April 2018 - No: 49% Yes: 51%

Download report

Pie chart: S167 grade of authorities, November 2017

A “new” law requiring taxi drivers not to discriminate against wheelchair users was commenced on 6th April 2017. Taxi drivers face £1,000 fines for refusing to take or help wheelchair users, or if they charge wheelchair users more. But the new law only takes effect if the local council has created a “designated list” of wheelchair accessible taxis.

Accessible taxis are an essential part of an inclusive society; especially given the extensive barriers disabled people face with other forms of transport.

The Department of Transport’s guidance states:

Section 167 of the Act (Equality Act 2010) permits, but does not require, LAs (Local Authorities) to maintain a designated list of wheelchair accessible taxis and PHVs (Private Hire Vehicles).
Whilst LAs are under no specific legal obligation to maintain a list under section 167, the Government recommends strongly that they do so. Without such a list the requirements of section 165 of the Act do not apply, and drivers may continue to refuse the carriage of wheelchair users, fail to provide them with assistance, or to charge them extra.

It recommended local authorities create their lists by October 2017.

I decided to find out what local authorities are planning to do in response to this. I submitted Freedom of Information requests to all 366 taxi licensing councils, and Transport for London (who administer taxi licensing on behalf of all the London boroughs) in April 2017 and in October 2017.

My report and data can be downloaded in full at the top of this page. It gives depressing results.

Boundary data:
Contains National Statistics data © Crown copyright and database right 2016
Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database right 2016

Map of my data by Jeff Harvey of Transport for All shows which authorities have a S167 list (green), plan to produce one (yellow) or have no current plan to do so (red).

Only 51% of British taxi licensing authorities either had a list or have a plan to create one this financial year. It’s particularly bad in Scotland where only 28% are taking it up.

26% of authorities have actively decided not to work towards such a list at the moment.

In areas that don’t create a list, wheelchair users can continue to be overcharged. Even if they report it, the driver won’t face the legal penalty. Wheelchair users will continue to be disempowered.

Even where authorities have created a list, the law is not enforced. There are 30,298 wheelchair accessible hackney carriages licensed by the 119 authorities that have implemented S167 of the Act. Yet no driver has faced enforcement action under the legislation, one year after it was commenced.

It is disappointing that many councils are undermining the Government’s intent in bringing in this legislation, by their failure to undertake the required office work. Their inaction means that taxi drivers can continue to discriminate against wheelchair users with impunity.

In much of the UK, councils have no clear plan to implement the anti-discrimination law.


All is not lost.

Pressure and publicity from disabled people and their allies has already made some authorities decide to implement the law. For example, of the seven dissident councils contacted by the Disability News Service following my initial research results, five councils (Oldham, Epping Forest, Stratford-on-Avon, Suffolk Coastal, and Waveney councils) changed their policy.

If your council has yet to commit to implementing this anti-discrimination legislation, (you can check in my data tables above) contacting them may well cause them to change their tune. Your contact point would be the councillors for your area on the District or Unitary council, or your London Assembly member. You can use WriteToThem to identify and contact the relevant ones, by putting your postcode in this box:


writetothem.com


Please use your own words, but you may wish to include some of the following points:

  • Taxis are essential for disabled people’s quality of life, especially given the barriers disabled people experience with other forms of transport.
  • Creating a list is a relatively minor bureaucratic procedure that sends a clear message that wheelchair users have the right to travel by taxi without discrimination.
  • The Government’s Statutory Guidance strongly recommends councils produce a list, because “without such a list the requirements of section 165 of the Act do not apply, and drivers may continue to refuse the carriage of wheelchair users, fail to provide them with assistance, or to charge them extra.
  • The licensing body should create a list even if all taxis licensed by them are wheelchair accessible. Simply stating “all the taxis we license are wheelchair accessible” doesn’t have the desired effect of putting taxi drivers under a legal duty to take wheelchair users and not to charge extra for doing so.
  • It is important to create a list even if there are very few accessible taxis. It is perhaps even more important that drivers of such taxis don’t discriminate against wheelchair users.

Fleur Perry has written a template letter which may be useful to inspire you in your message.

Additionally, you may choose to tweet your local council. Muscular Dystrophy UK suggest “Taxis are not a luxury for disabled people. Will you support the equality act and make your taxis accessible? #section167fail”

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