A GROUP of cabbies are calling for a re-think of the rule that all hackney carriages must be wheelchair-friendly.

The Keighley and Bradford Taxi Drivers' Association is calling for the Council's rules to be relaxed, saying that many elderly people complain they struggle to climb into the taxis.

The association also says the vehicles are expensive to buy and uncomfortable to ride in, with customers branding them "dog vans".

Since 2009, new hackney carriage licences have only been issued for wheelchair-accessible vehicles - usually specially-adapted people carriers or vans.

Currently there are 222 licensed hackney carriages in the Bradford district, with all but four being the new-style wheelchair accessible vehicles.

But Shabir Ahmed, chairman of the association, said there was no need for there to be so many wheelchair-accessible taxis, and new saloon cars should be allowed too.

He said: "We want a review."

Zulfiqar Ali, who has been driving hackney carriages for 15 years, said: "When older people want to get into a taxi, they can't lift their legs up. They want to come and sit on a normal seat and pull their legs in. It would be so easy for them.

"But the councillors say people find it easier to get into these taxis.

"I'm gobsmacked by this. It's really sad because they don't believe the reality."

But the idea has met with opposition from the Bradford and District Disabled People's Forum, which said the arrangement should be kept as it is.

Emmerson Walgrove, deputy chairman of the association, said anyone struggling to get onto a higher seat could easily be offered some assistance, such as a stool to stand on.

Bradford Council has dismissed the idea of a review.

Councillor David Green, leader of the Council, said: "There is no evidence that members of the public are discriminated against by wheelchair accessible vehicles as there are many vehicle variants offering a choice of vehicle type.


"Many people with walking and movement difficulty prefer a vehicle that can be accessed without having to lower themselves on

to a low level seat.

"The Council works closely with groups which represent disabled customers to both promote and ensure equality.

"Any move to reduce the number of wheelchair accessible vehicle taxis would be contrary to this."

Jean Walker, founder of Bradford and District Senior Power, said: “I do a lot of work on isolation and anything that makes it easier for people with disabilities to get around is fine.

“If you are disabled, you need transport to be available when you need to use it.

“It is ok for able bodied people to come out with these comments, but I am becoming a bit cynical.

“Anything that makes it harder for disabled people to get out isn’t the way forwards,” she said.