The taxi industry are heading to the High Court today in a bid to overturn the capital’s controversial ‘Streetspace’ road restrictions.
Today’s court date follows news in late September that the taxi industry was granted permission to Judicially Review the Bishopsgate and ‘Streetspace’ road restrictions.
In August two taxi groups joined together to submit legal papers to the High Court, challenging not only the new Bishopsgate Bus Gate scheme that excludes licensed black cabs during peak times, but also a review of the entire London Streetspace plans.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) and United Trade Action Group (UTAG) took the decision to challenge both the Mayor of London and Transport for London (TfL) over its new Streetspace plans as more key roads are closed to motorists and licensed taxis.
The new traffic restrictions on Bishopsgate and Gracechurch Street in the City of London are in operation on weekdays between 7am and 7pm and only allow access through the gates to buses and cyclists.
The legal teams representing UTAG’s and LTDA’s Judicial Review against TfL will be heard in the High Court starting at 11am today.
In a message posted today on social media, a UTAG spokesperson said: “Very important day today for the whole trade. We will keep you updated where and when we can.
“Thank you to those that support UTAG. With your support we fight on your behalf.”
According to TfL the ‘Streetspace’ scheme was introduced, along with other London boroughs, to create more space for people to walk, cycle, scoot or wheel to help manage the coronavirus pandemic.
Temporary cycle lanes and wider pavements are among the changes implemented throughout the capital. The capital’s transport regulators hoped that the new scheme would also prevent an increase in car use to enable deliveries, emergency services and essential vehicle journeys from becoming gridlocked.
However the controversial new measures have been criticised by politicians and disabled groups.
Earlier this month Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, Rupa Huq, said that the number of changes made to roads within the capital has “completely invalidated” the world’s toughest taxi exam; the Knowledge of London.
During a parliamentary debate on 4 November, MPs discussed the impact of Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes put in place by a number of local authorities.
Theresa Villiers, Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet, was first to spark debate over the negative impact some of the LTNs are having, especially on the taxi trade.
Villiers said: “Does the hon. Lady agree that a number of the changes that have been made have a really negative impact on the taxi trade? The licensed taxi is one of the most accessible forms of transport. If we block it out of key routes such as Bishopsgate, we make it more difficult for people with mobility issues and disabilities to get to the places they need to get to.”
A leading disability group has also expressed their disappointment at the lack of provision for disabled travellers using the new Bishopsgate Bus Gate scheme despite receiving assurances from TfL.
Transport for All (TfA), an organisation for disabled and older people dedicated to championing the rights to travel with freedom and independence in London, described the plans as “incredibly disappointing”.
The disability group published a statement in July which conveyed their disappointment at not being consulted before the changes were designed and that no provision was given to wheelchair accessible taxis and Blue Badge holders despite assurances from TfL.
London’s licensed taxis, who since 2018 have invested nearly £200million into 3,500 zero-emission vehicles to clean up the capital’s poor air quality as requested by the Mayor of London, have been banned from using the bus gates forcing some passengers to pay far higher metered fares and increase journey times.
A Transport for All (TfA) spokesperson said via an open statement: “Sadly, despite assurances from TfL that access through Bishopsgate would be maintained for disabled people, there is no specific provision. Blue badge holders and black cab taxis will be under the same restrictions as all other non-bus motor vehicles.
“These include two bus-only gates at the north and south ends of the road which will not permit any cars or taxis through between the hours of 7am-7pm Mon-Fri, together with a series of Banned Turns restricting movements in the surrounding side streets.
“We know this is incredibly disappointing news for our disabled members who live or work in this area.
“TfL have assured us that they are monitoring the situation, so we urge you to please get in contact with us with any problems that arise as a result of these changes. The more detailed evidence we can build up, the better.
“We fully support attempts to reduce pollution, promote active travel, and avoid a car-based recovery. However, far more needs to be done to ensure that disabled people are not negatively impacted by these changes, in an increasingly hostile and difficult transport system.
“Disabled people were not consulted before these changes were designed and implemented, but will once again have to feedback with problems after they arise.”
According to sources the hearing starting today is set to last for a day and a half.