Disabled people have rounded on plans to scrap a subsidised minicab service, claiming the move will ‘deny us a social life’.
Capital Call is available to disabled passengers in Hounslow, Ealing and eight other London boroughs who struggle to use public transport. Members can get free minicab travel worth up to £200 a year, paying as little as £1.50 a journey.
But Transport for London (TfL), which funds it, wants to end the service in April next year and spend the annual £470,000 savings improving its free Dial-a-Ride bus booking facility and other support for disabled passengers.
It claims Capital Call duplicates the service already provided by the Taxicard scheme, which is available to people in all 33 London boroughs and entitles users to subsidised travel costing from £2.50 a go.
However, although Taxicard allows users in Ealing and Hounslow to make up to 104 journeys a year, only two ‘swipes’ are permitted for each trip, limiting the maximum subsidy per journey to £21.60.
Capital Call allows unlimited swipes, up to the total value of £200 in subsidised fares, making it more suitable for longer journeys.
Capital Call is used by 154 people in Hounslow and 147 in Ealing, compared with 957 and 1,511 Taxicard users respectively in the two boroughs. Across both boroughs, 40,194 trips were made using Taxicard during the first half of 2013,14, compared with 3,223 using Capital Call.
TfL claims Capital Call is no longer needed in outer London boroughs, as there are many more black cabs operating in those areas than a decade ago, when it was introduced.
But Wasif Bhatti, of Barrack Road, Hounslow, says losing Capital Call would be a big blow for disabled people like him.
“Capital Call is cheaper for longer journeys and I don’t want to lose it,” said the 35-year-old, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.
“They’ve already cut the (number of journeys you can make using) Taxicard and now they’re planning to do this. Are they trying to deny us a social life? It’s disgraceful.”
His concerns are shared by Transport for All, which represents disabled passengers across the capital.
A spokeswoman for the charity said: “One of the key things people like about Capital Call is that it’s much more flexible, and we’re concerned about these proposals to end the service.”
Paul Blackwell, TfL’s general manager of London Dial-a-Ride, said demand for the free bus service was up in Hounslow this year but nine out of every 10 requests were still successful.
“The efficiency savings that would be delivered if Capital Call was withdrawn would be reinvested in making further vital improvements to the capital’s transport network to the benefit of more people across London.
“Together, Taxicard and Dial-a-Ride would continue to ensure that mobility impaired Londoners have access to two services which ensure they can get around the city as well as London’s fleet of over 8,600 fully accessible buses.”
* Consultation on plans to end Capital Call is running until April 14 and a decision is due to be made on a borough by borough basis this summer. You can have your say at consultations.tfl.gov.uk/assisted-transport/capital-call.