Wheelchair users cannot get taxis ‘for love nor money’ in Blackpool town centre

A lack of accessible public transport is causing havoc for wheelchair users holidaying in Blackpool.

By Wes Holmes
Monday, 1st August 2022, 12:30 pm

Just 115 out of the 634 taxis operating in the resort are wheelchair-friendly, with some of these operating on contracts taking children to and from local schools, meaning they cannot be used by the general public at busy times in the mornings and afternoons.

Some Blackpool taxi companies do not offer any wheelchair-friendly vehicles, such as Premier Taxis, which only accepts foldable wheelchairs.

Ben Atkinson, owner of the Bond Hotel, which caters specifically for disabled guests, said: “We are having real trouble getting taxis for disabled people. We just can’t get them for love nor money. Either they are not taking bookings, or waiting times are over an hour, and these are at normal times of the day.

Taxis on Bank Hey Street

"It’s so embarrassing when our customers come to us and we can’t get them travel.”

Blackpool Council said the town faces a general lack of taxi drivers due to the impact of Covid-19.

However, Bill Lewtas, of the Blackpool Licensed Taxi Operators Association, said: “Blackpool has more wheelchair accessible taxis than any other town on the Fylde Coast, and probably in Lancashire as a whole.

“The black cabs and Mercedes Vitos in Blackpool conduct hundreds of wheelchair jobs on a monthly basis. There is not a day goes by without wheelchairs being loaded into Taxis at the North train station, care homes, hospital and delivered to their final destination."

Ben added: “In fairness to Blackpool, it’s one of the most accessible towns around. Whenever I visit our attractions I can’t help but look at disabled facilities, and I see it’s more accessible than many other seaside towns in the country. But we just can’t get taxis to take people to them.

“Guests find themselves struggling to get to the train station, not being able to get a taxi, so they end up on the tram. Once the tramway extends to the train station, that will help things a bit – but they should be able to get a taxi like anyone else.

“They have no chance of getting a taxi to see a show at night.

“My opinion is that it needs sorting out. Just because they’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to get a taxi like the rest of us can.”

A Blackpool Council spokesman said the authority is currently looking at ways to improve accessible public transport, as its plan to introduce electric vehicles has so far overlooked potential disabled customers.

They said: “Blackpool Council have recently highlighted a lack of taxi drivers in general following Covid-19 and have done some work over the last few months around this to encourage recruitment in this area, which has had some positive impact.

“In terms of disability accessible vehicles specifically, the council are looking at ways to encourage more accessibility vehicles into the trade through current policy review. One of the longer term strategies is around moving the fleet towards electric vehicles, but there seems to be a lack of accessibility options in electric vehicles and they are very expensive. The council are planning its next demand survey for the taxi fleet and do incorporate accessibility demand into that survey, which will do done again.”