Why can't we use bus lanes, asks boss of taxi service for disabled
THE founder of a charity that provides accessible transport for disabled people in the city and beyond says appeals for his smaller vehicles to be able to use bus lanes have been ignored by Bristol City Council.
The Disabled Travel Service, based in Fishponds, provides paid for transport for disabled people and people with mobility problems from within a 50-mile radius of Bristol.
The charity has two large minibuses and three smaller Citroen Berlingo cars to transport members.
Company secretary and founder Martyn Hancock said so far he had received £300 in council fines.
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"We are transporting people to important appointments and on the Portway it can be the difference between a 10-minute journey and an hour," Mr Hancock told the Post.
"I have had £300 in fines from the council so far and feel like I am banging my head against a brick wall when I try to reason with them."
Last month Mr Hancock set up an online petition on the council website under the title 'Disabled Travel should be able to use bus lanes' saying his charity was fined every time its taxis use bus lanes in Bristol.
He claims this is wrong because the charity is providing a service under section 19 of the Community Transport Act as amended by the Local Transport Act 2008.
But the council disagrees saying his vehicles are neither registered as buses nor licensed as taxis so therefore by law can not use bus lanes.
Mr Hancock has written to the council outlining his concerns but he says his appeals, along with concerns raised by services users and by Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy (Lab) have been ignored.
Mr Hancock said: "Our charity has been providing its services to disabled people in Bristol some 12 years and in that time we have operated without any cash handout from any local council – especially Bristol within whose boundaries we are based. Yet when we approach Mr Peter Mann, the transport director at Bristol City Council to ask whether we can be allowed to use the bus lanes with our wheelchair accessible cars, which do the same service as taxis but under the Community Transport Act, our letters are ignored.
"We wrote to him in November 2011 and again in January 2012 without any reply.
"Our local MP Kerry McCarthy has written on our behalf and so have several of our members who have recruited the services of their MPs.
"Yet no one from the transport services department appears to have had the courtesy to reply or acknowledge any of the numerous communications.
"This is indicative of the disdain this department of Bristol City Council holds its people and community groups in who do not ask the council for financial help. Why?"
A spokeswoman for Bristol City Council said: "Bus lanes have strict legal orders relating to them.
"Taxis must be licensed, and bus services must be registered in order to use the bus lanes.
"DTS vehicles are neither registered as buses nor licensed as taxis. So although the council appreciates the organisation provides a valuable service, it cannot legally permit these vehicles to use bus lanes under the legislation as it stands."
Disabled Travel Service is a member of the community Transport Association and, won the Enterprising Bristol 2006 Community Award and was runner-up in 2009 in the Post Business Community Awards.
Mr Hancock's online petition is available to sign up to until December and can be found at http:// epetitions.bristol.gov.uk/epetition_ core/community/petition/1866.
For more information about the Disabled Travel Service call Mr Hancock on 0117 3305916.