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National taxi association SUPPORTS all PHVs using bus lanes, but cabbies disagree

The rules for bus lane access vary depending on the type and location of the vehicle, and they can be confusing for both drivers and passengers.

Bus lanes are designed to give priority and protection to buses, cyclists and other authorised vehicles, such as taxis, ambulances and motorcycles. They aim to improve public transport reliability, reduce congestion and encourage more sustainable modes of travel.

However, privately booked minicabs are mostly not allowed in bus lanes. Public taxis known as black cabs or hackneys, can be hailed on the street or at a rank and are compelled to take the travelling public as part of their licence to passengers' destinations. Private hire vehicles (PHVs), also known as minicabs or ridehail, must be pre-booked through a licensed operator and can arrange a pre-determined pick up location.

In most cities in the UK, only public taxis can use bus lanes, while PHVs are not allowed. This is because public taxis are considered to provide a public service similar to buses, while PHVs are seen as private cars. Public taxis also have stricter licensing and safety standards than PHVs, and they are subject to metered fares regulated by local authorities.

Minicabs are able to price their services based on the time it takes to take private bookings to their destinations outside of the bus lane networks.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. In Ireland, both public taxis and PHVs can use bus lanes, as long as they are operating as small public service vehicles (SPSVs). In Northern Ireland, only public taxis and wheelchair-accessible PHVs can use bus lanes. In some UK cities, such as Cardiff, Coventry, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham and Sheffield, PHVs can also use bus lanes under certain conditions or on specific routes.

The issue of bus lane access for PHVs is controversial and often debated by different stakeholders. Some argue that allowing PHVs in bus lanes would improve customer choice, reduce journey times and costs, and support the PHV industry. Others argue that excluding PHVs from bus lanes would maintain public transport priority, reduce traffic congestion and pollution, and protect cyclists.

Dave Lawrie, Director at National Taxi And Private Hire Association (NTPHA), however argues that ALL PHVs should be handed access despite the impact it would have on the taxi industry. When answering a question in PHTM over whether PHVs should be given access, Lawrie said: “The short answer is, yes they should. The reason for this is simply because, once the passenger has been picked up and is en route to their destination, the role is identical; transporting the public along the shortest possible route.”

TaxiPoint asked its taxi driver readers whether they thought PHVs should be allowed access. Whilst some dual licensed cabbies highlighted the regions where access was already allowed, the consensus was that PHVs should not be handed access.

One cabbie said: “No absolutely not, the doors are always open to any fit and proper person to become a legitimate taxi driver, and then be allowed the same access and rights to ply for hire. If they choose to take the soft option and become a mini cab driver and as most now do go where there phone takes them, so be it. Stay out of bus lanes and don’t park on ranks. Simple.”

Another taxi driver said: “I can't comment on bus lanes outside London, but definitely NOT in London. Private Hire now have 6 times more vehicles than licensed taxis. Just imagine they used bus lanes… might as well remove them!

“They are there for a reason, so the general public can alight in safety to and from a bus, as well as hailing a licensed taxi.”

Another taxi driver responded: “Bus lanes were established to improve mass transportation of passengers relying on a timetabled service, so helping them bypass traffic congestion is a public good.

“Taxis are fitted with taximeters that continue to run when stationary, so i seems reasonable to extend the courtesy of using bus lanes to taxis as a means of not penalising the customer.

“Neither of these circumstances apply to minicabs, so it seems reasonable to not extend bus lane use to them.”

Ultimately, the decision on whether to allow PHVs in bus lanes is up to each local authority, based on their own assessment of the potential benefits and impacts. The Department for Transport provides guidance on private hire vehicle licensing, but it does not have the power to interpret or enforce the law.


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