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Transport for London welcomes judgment from European Court of Justice on bus lane policy

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14 January 2015

· Judgment notes TfL policy does not appear to the ECJ to involve state aid nor confer, through State resources, a selective economic advantage

· It is now for the Court of Appeal to decide, taking into account this judgment

Transport for London (TfL) has today welcomed the judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), in Luxembourg, on the case brought by Eventech, a subsidiary of Addison Lee, that challenges TfL’s policy of allowing taxis, but not private hire vehicles, to use bus lanes in the capital.

In its judgment, the ECJ recognised that taxis are distinct from minicabs noting the former’s “legal status, are in a factual and legal situation which is distinct from that of minicabs, and consequently those two categories of vehicles are not comparable”.

The ECJ notes that drivers of taxis are subject to strict standards in relation to their vehicles, their fares and their knowledge of London, whereas those standards do not apply to minicabs.

The ECJ goes on to recognise that only taxis can ply for hire, they are subject to the rule of ‘compellability’, they must be recognisable and capable of conveying persons in wheelchairs, and their drivers must set the fares for their services by means of a taxi meter and have a particularly thorough knowledge of London.  Concluding that in that context, the bus lane policy does not confer a selective economic advantage on taxis.

Leon Daniels, TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, said:  “Our policy on bus lanes was upheld by the High Court.  We welcome the opinion from the Advocate General and now the European Court of Justice, but ultimately await the decision of the Court of Appeal.  As this process continues we are maintaining our well-understood and effective policy that helps to keep London moving in the interest of everyone.”

In the original Judicial Review proceedings in 2012, TfL explained to the court that taxis are allowed to drive in bus lanes because they can ply for hire, whereas minicabs cannot.  It would be more difficult to hail a taxi, especially on a busy road, if the vehicle concerned was not near to the kerb.  Unlike minicabs, taxis are required to be wheelchair accessible and their ability to use bus lanes is of great benefit to wheelchair users.  Allowing tens of thousands of minicabs to drive in bus lanes would also impact on the reliability of bus services and risk inconveniencing the six and a half million passengers who travel on buses each day.

Mr Justice Burton agreed, noting in his High Court judgment: “There is to my mind a clear distinction between the need of black cabs (and their passengers and the public) for them to be in the bus lanes, by way of visibility and availability of, and access to, black cabs for those hailing a cruising taxi”.

He went on to note: “I consider it makes entire good sense for black cabs to be travelling in bus lanes.  Minicabs just do not have the need to use the bus lane, and black cabs do”.

The proceedings were brought by Eventech, a subsidiary of Addison Lee, against the Parking Adjudicator, which arose from Penalty Charge Notices issued by Camden Council for illegal use of the Southampton Row bus lanes.  Both the London Borough of Camden and TfL were named as interested parties.  The High Court upheld TfL’s bus lanes policy in 2012 and the Court of Appeal hearing took place in April 2013. 

There are around 23,000 licensed taxis in London and approximately 53,000 licensed minicabs in the capital.

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