Private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers in Reading have submitted a petition asking the council to allow access to a key city bus lane and gate.
The disputed lanes are situated on King’s Road and the Duke Street bus gate. A petition delivered by Kamran Saddiq was submitted at a recent Reading Borough Council meeting signed by 187 people all calling for access to be made available.
According to The Reading Chronicle, Saddiq said: “I myself and likewise most of the private hire drivers in Reading have been driving Private Hire for many years.
“Over the years the traffic situation in Reading has got from bad to worse.
“Day by day it is making our job very difficult and very challenging.
“Especially in the peak times the roads are so busy that we often get very, very late in dropping our passengers to their designated destinations.
“On several occasions we have clients who need to get to the airport in the mornings, we are always stuck in traffic. If we were granted access to use this bus lane it would help us in a logistical way, as you have been very kind to grant us the inbound usage of the King’s Road bus lane a few years back, in which there have been barely any complaints of abusive use.
“It was given to us on a trial period, we all stuck to the rules.”
It’s not the first time bus lane access has been discussed in recent years. In July 2019 new vehicle restrictions and enforcement of one of Reading’s most important bus lanes came into effect.
Following a review of the number of vehicles using the bus lane, an experimental traffic order came into effect on 1 July, allowing authorised vehicles to use the bus lane alongside buses, bicycles and motorcycles. Authorised vehicles included Reading Borough Council licensed Hackney Carriages and Reading Borough Council licensed Private Hire Vehicles only. In a change to previous restrictions, Hackney Carriages and Private Hire Vehicles licensed elsewhere are not to be permitted to use the bus lane.
What is the general stance on taxi access in bus lanes nationwide?
All Hackney Carriage taxis can access bus lanes where marked with signage displaying the word taxi. For the most part, private hire vehicles (PHV) cannot access bus lanes, however there are some exceptions.
In Coventry and Nottingham, wheelchair accessible PHVs can access bus lanes. The same goes for Northern Ireland, where there are four types of ‘taxi’. ‘Permitted’ taxis are allowed access which refers to public hire black taxis and wheelchair-accessible PHVs.
In big cities like Cardiff, Sheffield and Liverpool, minicabs ARE allowed access to the prized road space.
Why can taxis access bus lanes and not PHV?
In 2015 Addison Lee challenged this theory at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and lost. The ECJ said only black cab drivers are allowed to use the bus lanes because of their distinction from minicabs. Crucially the courts also found the banned usage of PHVs did not give taxis an economic advantage.
TfL have long argued that taxis are allowed to drive in bus lanes because they can ply-for-hire, whereas minicabs cannot. All licensed taxis in the capital are also required to be wheelchair-accessible and need full curb-side access.
TfL also had big worries around the reliability of bus services, if minicabs were included. Allowing tens of thousands of minicabs to drive in bus lanes would slow down already stagnating bus times.
In 2012 private-hire drivers staged a protest outside the Manchester Town Hall after being banned from using bus lanes.
Minicab representatives at the time said the council were discriminating against them by preventing them from using the lanes, which black cabs could continue to use.
Manchester Council said that bus lanes were used to speed up journey times and ease congestion. However James Parry, a solicitor acting on behalf of the Private Hire Association, said taxis and PHV were essentially doing the same job.