Wheelchair user's trip from Wellington Airport to CBD costs $200

A wheelchair user paid $200 for a taxi trip from Wellington Airport to the CBD after the cab had to come from Kapiti to ...
ARIE KETEL/NZPA

A wheelchair user paid $200 for a taxi trip from Wellington Airport to the CBD after the cab had to come from Kapiti to pick them up.

A wheelchair user has been left feeling powerless after having to fork out $200 for a taxi from Wellington Airport to the central city.

No taxi based in the capital had the capacity to carry the electric wheelchair, so the woman, who does not want to be identified, had to call one from the Kapiti Coast.

The woman, who was travelling with a friend, contacted three different Wellington-based services before landing in Wellington at 9pm on August 6. None of them had wheelchair-accessible cabs available.

Desperate to get home, she called a company in Kapiti, which said a driver could head down to the airport on the condition they could take a fare back, and quoted the pair $200. 

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With the bus service from the airport having stopped at 8.45pm, the woman accepted the quote because the only alternative was a 20-minute journey in the dark to find the nearest non-airport bus stop. "I wasn't sure where it was and I wasn't keen to go out and find it."

The friend, who lives in Kapiti, took up the return ride.

But the woman, who wanted to travel only as far as the central city, paid for the entire taxi fare because the friend had not intended to travel home by taxi.

The Wellington Airport website states a taxi trip from the airport to the CBD is 8km, with the average journey taking 15 to 25 minutes at a cost of about $30 to $40.

The experience left the woman frustrated, and saying everyone should be able to get home safely at night.

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Options were very limited for wheelchairs users once the buses stopped.

"I'm just trying to live my life like anyone else. To have to deal with situations like this ... when I had to fork out $200 or risk my health and safety, it made me feel pretty powerless."

Greater Wellington Regional Council administers the Total Mobility programme in Wellington, which provides subsidised transport for people with disabilities.

Combined Taxis and Kiwi Cabs did not respond to requests for comment.

Green Cabs area manager Rob Wheeler said it did not offer wheelchair-accessible vehicles in Wellington because it had been unable to sign on to the Total Mobility Scheme.

It had "tried multiple times", but had been declined because the council was not accepting any new suppliers, he said.

The company was part of the scheme in Dunedin and Queenstown, and Wheeler said he was keen to offer the service in Wellington.

A council spokesman said rules around Total Mobility required that approved transport operators provide services only at the times that public transport was available.

"However, given the very specific needs of some of our wheelchair-bound customers, we do recommend to them that trips are booked in advance."

There were 11 Total Mobility providers with 47 wheelchair-accessible vehicles that serviced about 1000 wheelchair users, he said.

He the person to contact them so they could discuss the matter further.

New Zealand Taxi Federation executive director John Hart said it was an indication there are not enough wheelchair vans to keep up with demand.

"If you include the fact we have an ageing population, it's becoming an issue."

It was a significant investment to fit out a wheelchair van in keeping with regulatory specifications. "You wouldn't get much change from $100,000."

However, most of the fares picked up under the Total Mobility Scheme were accommodated in cars, rather than vans.

"Most taxi companies do not own cabs, the individual operators do. Those with wheelchair vans are on the road looking for work because there is not enough wheelchair work for them to solely rely on."

The Human Rights Commission has been approached for comment.

 - Stuff

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