Swindon taxi drivers will be able to purchase and drive cars that allow wheelchair users to enter the back of the vehicle.
Members of the Swindon Borough Council licensing committee unanimously approved a proposal, brought forward by the Swindon Taxi Association, to allow rear-load vehicle licenses to be used as Hackney cars – the kind of taxis which can be picked up at a rank in town. .
Kathryn Ashton, Head of Licensing, said: “All new licensed Hackney cars must be specially designed and wheelchair accessible. Some sedans are grandfathered, but the others are all accessible. At this time, we only allow side-loading vehicles.
Ms Ashton said the council made the decision a few years ago because of concerns that wheelchair passengers would not be safe if vehicles were struck from behind.
“If the committee approves the proposal, I can assure you that we will still only allow specially designed accessible vehicles, and not an old pickup truck that has been converted.”
The proposal had been put forward by the city’s taxi drivers association and member Andy Lucas addressed the committee. He said: “Fewer and fewer taxi manufacturers are making side-loading vehicles. They all switch to rear loading.
He added: “Wheelchairs are getting bigger and bigger – especially electric vehicles – and there are height restrictions for entering the side of the vehicle. This means that there are certain types of wheelchairs that we cannot take. A rear loader is a simple drive and reverse and it would make it more accessible for everyone.
Committee Chairman Coun Dale Heenan said: “There is always a need to keep these things under review and evolve over time.”
The meeting dealt with another issue related to taxis.
The central government has set statutory standards for taxis and has asked all local authorities to ensure that they comply with them in their own local policies.
Ms Ashton told the committee: “We are already doing all of these things, but not in a consolidated policy.
“I propose to come back to the next meeting in October with a consolidated policy document that covers all these statutory standards, but rest assured that we are already well placed in this regard.”
Mrs Ashton’s proposal was unanimously approved by the committee.