Taxis: sky high price of having fun

Taxis: sky high price of having fun

Like most young people around my age (I’m 26) I like to go out clubbing at night. I went out twice a week when I was at university, and would be out until 3am. I’ve even done a few all-nighters and partied until about 6am, which I can’t do too often without becoming a zombie!

Now that I’ve left university I try to go out about once a week. But of course I actually have to get to the club before I can start partying – and that is not as easy as you might think.

I use a private minibus to travel from my home village to the nightclub in Lincoln city centre, a distance of about 8 miles. I use a minibus because there is plenty of room inside it for my power chair to be clamped down safely. It’s also quite reliable as we have to book it in advance so we know it will be there waiting for us when it’s time to go home. The problem however is the cost. It’s not cheap. It costs an eye watering £93 to drive to the club and back, a round trip of 16 miles. It’s ridiculous. I could get to London for cheaper than that and London is about 160 miles away!

You’re probably wondering why I don’t use a different taxi. Well I’ve tried normal black cabs which have a small ramp beneath the side door. If I manage to drive up the ramp without tipping over there is no room to turn around inside. So I have to sit sideways throughout the entire journey, and without a seatbelt and without chair clamps. Wheelchairs are supposed to face backwards when in cabs, and then the clamps and seatbelt could be used. So, having to sit sideways is not only dangerous but also illegal. I have had to use these cabs before though as I didn’t have much choice.

When I was at university I could catch a normal bus to the club but because they stopped running at 11:25pm I had to get some sort of taxi or minibus home at 3am. It was only two miles from my accommodation to the club but even so a private minibus company charged me £35 each way. I didn’t want to spend this much money so I had to try and get a normal cab which would only charge £8 each way. At closing time taxis usually swarm around the club picking up students but only about one in 20 of these taxis would be suitable for my wheelchair. Even then it’s not guaranteed that there will be any at all and if there are they don’t hang around very long, as other students usually jump on them as soon as they arrive before we have a chance to talk to them.

It’s not fair that we have to pay so much for a minibus just because our chairs don’t fit in normal taxis. So my choice is to travel home extremely expensively but safely and with peace of mind, or, cheaply but dangerously and illegally. Talk about a Catch-22 situation.

I contacted my local MP when I was at university in Leicester, and I asked him to investigate why there were so few wheelchair accessible taxis available at night. He investigated on my behalf and replied that there was not enough demand for them. I refuse to believe that there are so few disabled people that want to go out at night. It is far more likely that their circumstances prevent them from doing so. Most disabled people would not be able to afford a private minibus so they would have to rely on normal cabs. If the wheelchair is small enough they may be okay but if like mine the chair is large they could have a problem.

I am lucky that I can afford to use a private minibus to accommodate my chair but most disabled people would not be able to do this. I am willing to pay the extortionate cost because I enjoy going out so much and the alternative would be sitting at home doing nothing. It shouldn’t be like this though. There should be an affordable and safe means of transport available that is accessible for everyone to use whenever they want. We need to show that demand is great enough for such a service and then hopefully change will be more forthcoming.

4 thoughts on “Taxis: sky high price of having fun

  1. My uncle used to be a taxi driver and the big problem with private hire cabs, is that the drivers are all self employed. They generally log on and off when they want and they take what fares they make, but don’t get paid a company wage. The companies can’t make any of their drivers drive at a certain time. This means that no-one can ensure that there are wheelchair accessible taxis out, because if this drivers who have these taxis want to work they do, and if they don’t want to work they don’t. So a firm might have 200 cars including 30 accessible ones, but if at 11pm one Friday night none of the drivers with accessible cars wanted to be out, the company couldn’t make them go out.

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    1. Yes the cabs not always being available is a problem I have experienced. But if I enquire about their availability and book about a week in advance I find I am more likely to find one that is available. Another problem I have with them though is that on the day I am due to go out I may not feel like it any more, for example if I am too tired or feel ill. The booking office is not open on the weekends when I usually go out so we can’t cancel it, and I will have to go out anyway or the money will have been wasted. Since I wrote this article I have found a company with wheelchair accessible vehicles (that my chair can fit in) that can pick me up at 3 AM and do so for a cheaper price. The downside is they have let me down once before and not turned up when they should have, so they are not as reliable. This puts me off using them as I don’t want to be stranded in town at 3 AM. But I think I will in future, simply because I can cancel the booking with them on the day if I don’t feel like going out anymore. I like the flexibility.

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  2. I am relatively fortunate in my transport situation. I have got to know a lot of my mini cab drivers and can even negotiate deals for getting around.
    Saying that I spend £320 of my DLA just to get to physiotherapy and one of the drivers helps me with some minor shopping on the way home. I do give tips as well as the £320 but what can you do.
    The local transport services cannot get me to an appointment on time. I also have to take a guided tour of the London suburbs for two hours before getting to my destination which is only six miles away.

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    1. Wow £320 and two hours drive just to go 6 miles? That’s shocking. I think what makes it worse is that you don’t have a choice but to spend that money, as physiotherapy you need to attend. It’s not right, but like you say, what can you do.

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