Disability, My Life, Travel

My Raging Ramp Fee

Why does this keep happening?

Last Tuesday, I had been in town all day, doing some well needed retail therapy after a hard year at university. I was with Sabrina, who had come from to Leicester to spend time with me during the summer.

Clutching our shopping bags, we approached the taxi rank outside Birmingham New Street.

Coincidentally, it was the exact one which I had the trouble with a year before. However, having been in Leicester all year and catching taxis home.

I’ve always been on edge when I approached the taxi rank outside Birmingham New Street Station, I kept anticipating the same treatment I had previously received at this taxi rank. But the more and more, I didn’t receive such treatment, the more I started to relax.

Anyway, back to last Tuesday. We approached the first taxi in the long taxi rank and after giving my address, we asked if we could get a lift home.

I didn’t hear this taxi driver’s response when Sabrina requested our lift home. Apparently, he had already been booked for a few people that were about to come out of the station at any moment. I got closer to catch the end of the excuse and there was something about his tone that wasn’t convincing.

Maybe I was paranoid.

As we moved, I saw two people with suitcases approach the taxi and got in straight away. While I was watching these people enter this taxi, Sabrina approached the second taxi in the line. I quickly caught up.

This taxi driver, didn’t see me at first and said yes to taking Sabrina home. Then he saw me and his answer suddenly changed.

I tried to tell him that I had got into the size of this taxi, which was a big one many times before.

Still sitting in his seat, he peered at me through his window and examined my wheelchair.

He claimed that he had two separate ramps which wouldn’t hold my wheelchair’s weight.

I tried to encourage him that I had used these ramps before to board taxis before, in fact my grandparents had these exact ramps which I used on a regular basis when I went to visit. He still dismissed this and continued with the excuses.

Admitting defeat, we both moved along to the next taxi in the line. We spoke to the driver and he tried to brush us off and told us to go to the taxi in front of him. We said that we had but the driver refused us. In the end he got of the taxi and helped us. The journey was fine. He did keep turning into roads which weren’t mine, then missing my road entirely. But apart from that it was fine.

We got onto my road and in front of the house. He took a while parking, which I thought was weird. When the taxi finally stopped, the driver got out of the taxi, but left the meter running.

The driver took a long time unloading the ramp, which had not been strapped in, in the boot. Then he took a while securely the ramp to the taxi, which only took a minute to do at New Street.

Once he had finally secured the ramp to the taxi and on signal, I started reversing. As I reversed, the taxi driver kept distracting me, telling me to keep reposition my wheelchair every two seconds. It was very distracting.

Finally, I got level on the pavement. I watched Sabrina as she took longer in the taxi and then she got out.

We stood together and we watched the driver fold up the ramp and secure it in the boot. Again, he took a long time. Finally, he walked around the taxi and got into the front and finally stopped the meter. Sabrina had clocked the meter when I had got out of the taxi which was at £8.20.

We offered him £8.80 which was the price of the taxi, plus 60p (for two people) he had tacked on at the end. We offered him the sum of money and he refused it, claiming that the price was £9.40.

We disputed this and offered him the £8.80 again and this was when the driver became rude and aggressive towards me.

He started to shout, saying the fare was definitely £9.40. According to the taxi driver, the fare included the time it took to load and unload me and my wheelchair and then the time it took to get the ramp out and put it away.

The taxi driver claimed it took 15 minutes to get me out of the taxi. We stared at him in disbelief, it only took me two minutes to get out at the very most.

He was definitely exaggerating and tried to pull a fast one. We stuck to our guns and said that we would only pay him £8.80. He also stuck to his argument and continued to be rude and aggressive towards us.

I tried a different angle, tuning out his rude and aggressive attitude towards us. I explained that I had already been to the council about another, similar issue, placing the same reasoned arguments that we were having now as well as other problems and debates following an incident with another taxi driver.

This taxi driver pretended to only hear half of what I said. Continuing to shout, he said there was no letter off the council and said he was charging me for the time he spent loading, unloading me as well as the journey.

Finally taking the £8.80, he looked right at me and said that if ever sees me again, he will refuse to take me.

Once Sabrina and I got into the house, we phoned up my parents straight away to get their opinions on this. After informing them on what had happened, they reassured me that we was in the right.

They encouraged me and I emailed Teresa, the very kind young lady who dealt with our complaint last time and she has already sent me the forms to fill out, following the complaint.

I am still in the process of filling out these forms and formalising my complaint. So, let’s see where this goes.

Whatever the outcome, it is important to make stands, such as these, in order to make a positive difference.

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