Disability, My Life

My Raging Ramp Fee – Update

Regular followers of this blog would know about my run-ins with taxi drivers. Last year, I actually went to a tribunal to give evidence against one particular taxi driver, regarding their behaviour and attitude towards me when I asked for them to take me home. This driver has suspended following this the conclusion that was drawn after this tribunal.

READ MORE HERE:

Birmingham City Council Taxis – The Incident https://thelifeofsophieabel.com/2018/07/13/birmingham-city-council-taxis-the-incident/

Birmingham City Council Taxis – The Hearing: https://thelifeofsophieabel.com/2018/07/16/birmingham-city-council-taxis-the-hearing/

Birmingham City Council – Follow Up: https://thelifeofsophieabel.com/2018/07/18/birmingham-city-council-follow-up/

After this incident and hearing, I really did hope that the message of the incident and the result of this particular hearing was passed on to other drivers under Birmingham City Council would be passed on, so much so that it would prevent the same thing happening again. I was wrong…

In the mid-summer, I had been out for the day in the city centre with my personal assistant and after our day out, we approached the taxi rank outside Birmingham New Street station, hoping to get a taxi home.

Though I hoped the news of the incident and the result of the hearing had been passed on, a part of me had always been on edge when I’ve approached this taxi rank as I’ve anticipated the same reception.

We moved along the line until we found a taxi driver. At first, this driver said yes, assuming it was just my PA who needed a taxi. But then he saw me and his whole attitude changed. The taxi driver claimed the model of my wheelchair was too big for this taxi. Despite our reassurances, he kept on coming up with excuses for why he couldn’t take us.

Making a note of his registration number we moved on to our third taxi. He did try to give us the brush off, saying that we needed to go to the taxi in front. After we had said that the driver in front of him had already refused us, he finally got out of his taxi and helped us in.

The journey itself was fine, but when the taxi stopped in front of the house, he got out leaving the meter running. He was acting a bit strange throughout the entire time he was helping me get out of the taxi. After I was off the ramp and onto the pavement, the driver stopped the metre, claiming that we owed him £9.40. We disputed the price. My PA had seen the price when I got out of the taxi and the charge was £8.20, so we offered him £8.80 which was the price of the taxi and the 60p extra that he had tacked on for just two of us.

This was when the driver became rude and aggressive towards me. He shouted that the fare was definitely £9.40. He hurled reason after reason at me for why the fare was in fact £9.40. The taxi driver was definitely exaggerating and was trying anything to get his £9.40 but we stuck to our guns and said that we would only pay him £8.80.

This argument went on for a while as neither of us was going to give in. The situation became more heated as the driver continued to shout and act in an aggressive manner. My tone stayed measured as I put across why the price was in fact £8.80. After more shouting, he finally took the £8.80, he looked right at me and said if ever sees me again, he would refuse to take me.

Once inside, I emailed Teresa, who dealt with my complaints last time we had this issue and pursed my complaints.

Read the full story here:

My Raging Ramp Fee: https://thelifeofsophieabel.com/2018/08/15/my-raging-ramp-fee/

Time has passed since this incident and I have been corresponding with Teresa’s colleague regarding the statements that I and my PA had given following the incident and the complaint we were making.

He had interviewed both of the drivers that I dealt with on the day of the incident. The first driver that we discussed was the one who completely refused to take us. This driver denies that he refused us point blank, but admitted that he refuses people like me as he cannot manoeuvre or carry electrical wheelchairs on his ramps, nor in his taxi safely. This result leaves us with some good options. One of these options is putting the matter before a magistrates court, and for me and my PA to attend to give evidence. If this doesn’t happen we could put the matter before the Licensing Committee.

I appreciate Teressa’s colleague quick response here and the worries of drivers being able to carry my size and style of electric wheelchairs. But I didn’t understand the point of naming the model of the wheelchair I have and supplying them with a photograph of my wheelchair as they requested from me. But whatever helps with the case. On the same email, I explained to Teressa’s colleague that I did try to explain to many others, that I have fitted in these taxis before and used the ramps they have with them. I also don’t get how these taxis have the wheelchair symbol on the window and still refuse my electric wheelchair. Drivers, in particular, this one claim they can’t carry my electric wheelchair because it’s too big and heavy. Birmingham City Council also asked for more information regarding the size and model of my wheelchair. Supplying the make and model of my wheelchair, I began to think are taxi drivers are telling me that I am unable to use these taxis because I am in an electric wheelchair? Because that is not far. My parents both work busy schedules and are unable to drive me places when I want to go. I am 22 and I want my independence and I do not want to be stuck in the house, day in, day out.

Meanwhile, I received updates of the events surrounding the driver that overcharged us and subjected us to his aggressive behaviour and what was happening to him, following our complaint. Apparently, both I and the driver agreed that he requested £9.40, but he claimed that he did not add any additional charge on by leaving the metre when we got out of the taxi etc. Further to this, while we stated that we paid him £8.80, he claimed that we only paid him £8.40.

Following this declaration and while he waited for a legal view on this particular situation, he wanted to ask me further questions to get further information from me. He requested my full address and whether he did drop me off there. Giving my full address, I was firm and precise with my words.

I am very truthful and accurate, especially when it comes to situations like this. To make sure I remained accurate with the details and I wasn’t exaggerating in my statement, I had gone over the details in my head many times to make sure the events were clear in my head. I had also made notes of the encounters with both drivers, which then made it easier to be accurate in my formal statement. After this firm email, I asked a question of my own, how could he agreed that he charged us £9.40 but not agree that he kept the meter running. It really doesn’t make sense. I also was curious to discover what the response was to me and my PA calling attention to his behaviour and manner.

Teresa’s colleague responded to this particular email by saying that he does believe every word of my statement and is not questioning anything I’ve written and all he was doing is reporting the driver’s version of events back to me. He had in fact asked for my address to work out the mileage between Birmingham New Street and calculated it on a Hackney Carriage Fare Chart. He believes the journey was about 3 miles, plus the 40p barrier charge and 20p excess passenger charge and this equals to £8.20, that with the extra 60p collaborates with your statement. Therefore by asking for £9.40, it would suggest he had kept the meeting running.

As for the driver’s behaviour, they want to deal with that separately. Teressa’s colleague that they would be able to prosecute following these events but it seemed that the legal team believe that they could not proceed with an alleged offence of attempt for a summary only matter.

The second line of attack was putting the matter before the Licensing Committee, who will take it forward and decide on his future. The matter of the first driver refusing us would also be put before the Licensing committee on the same day. This would involve me attending court with my PA and give evidence. I was more than happy to do this as I had done it before so I knew what to expect. I also wanted to speak up for my rights and I felt the only way to do this was attending a court hearing.

While I was talking to Teresa’s colleague, another matter occurred to me that I had been dealing with for a while when I travel in taxis. I thought that now would be a good opportunity to ask. Often when I travel, taxi drivers put the extras to 60p. This would mean that it would be 20p extra for me, 20p for who I am travelling with and then 20p charge. As I have been unsure whether my wheelchair count as a ‘person’ and an extra 20p. I have been sure of this, so have not reprimanded the drivers for it. There was a quick response to this question and it is not an extra 20p for your wheelchair. The meter starts at £2.20 on tariff one (the time you travelled). Then on top of this, there is 20p extra for any passenger over one. An example of this if there are four passengers get it the meter would start at £2.80. Apparently, the driver was

also entitled to charge for any barrier fees he incurs, which I believe was 40p when you travelled and it has now gone up to 50p.

In my emails, I also stressed that I feel like it only me that has these bad encounters and trouble with taxi drivers. Then I got information that shocked me. One of Teresa’s other colleagues is currently prosecuting this second driver for refusing to take a wheelchair passenger. This is a real eye-opener to me that other wheelchair users are having trouble with taxi drivers. It’s very interesting that someone else has had trouble with this same taxi driver. I admitted to Teresa’s colleague that this news has made me feel a little more relaxed about my situation with this driver if only a little bit.

Following this revelation, Teresa’s colleague has advised that it is best if we wait for the result of that case before proceeding to the committee. If this driver was found guilty, he would be attending committee anyhow, and they could add this complaint to that agenda. (Behaviour and attempted overcharge). I was more than happy with this situation, it prevents confusion over which case is which and I really didn’t want mistakes made either case because they’re trying to deal with two cases at once. According to what Teresa’s colleague was saying, he would discuss both matters of both drivers with the head of his department to ensure we follow the correct procedures for both incidents. He promised me that he would let me know how the meeting goes and keep me updated on events that happen.

I am now waiting for further details and I’ve decided whatever the outcome, it is important to make stands, such as these, in order to make positive differences.

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