INDIAN taxi-hailing firm Ola has been granted a licence to operate across Bournemouth – as long as it improves its wheelchair accessibility options.

Members of Bournemouth council’s licensing board agreed to award an operator’s licence to the company on Thursday, praising the safety features it has in place.

The app-based service will now be able to offer its service across the borough while discussions are also being held to expand it into Poole.

Unlike its competitors, including Uber and Lyft, Ola has a pool of drivers using licensed Hackney carriages as well as private hire vehicles.

A series of licences have been awarded to the firm by councils across the South West and south Wales since it began its expansion into the UK at the beginning of 2017.

Its app can already be used in cities including Bristol, Exeter and Cardiff while the company’s senior operations manager, Wouter Merkestein said that “positive discussions” had been held with Poole and Portsmouth council officers.

The firm has said that it is its intention to recruit about 150 drivers in Bournemouth as well as to appoint a “day-to-day operations manager” to oversee its work in the borough.

Its request for a licence was considered at Thursday’s meeting of the council’s licensing board.

At the meeting, Mr Merkestein said that the UK was the first step of its expansion into Europe.

“For the UK, we have communicated our plans to be in every place where a competitor is, so we have applied for a large number of licences and have been granted several as well,” he said.

“Our focus is on this area but we have several [licence applications] across the country which are in hand and have been applied for or are being prepared as we speak.

“In this area, we have the one licence in Southampton and have had positive feedback in Portsmouth and positive discussions in Poole so far as well.”

Councillors questioned how well the app catered to people with disabilities and, despite agreeing to grant the licence, requested that this be improved as a condition of the approval.

Committee chairman, Cllr Andrew Morgan, said: “We have decided that we are prepared to grant an operator’s licence for Ola to operate in Bournemouth.

“We would, however, condition you to have an option to choose wheelchair accessible vehicles and see their availability.

“We feel customers should have that choice – it’s one of our key objectives to help people of all abilities get around comfortably and safely.”