TAXI WIN: High Court rules Mayor and TfL’s Streetspace Plan and Bishopsgate Traffic Order “unlawful”

Updated: Jan 21

The High Court has today ruled that the Mayor of London and Transport for London (TfL) “acted unlawfully” in their treatment of licensed taxis, in the Streetspace for London Plan and associated Guidance and the A10 Bishopsgate Traffic Order.

The landmark judgement follows a judicial review mounted by the London taxi trade, challenging the Mayor and TfL’s Plan, associated Guidance issued to London Boroughs and the Order concerning a specific Streetspace scheme, the A10 Bishopsgate Corridor in the City of London, which removed taxi access to a key arterial route.

The Court has now ordered that the Streetspace Plan, Interim Guidance to Boroughs and the A10 Bishopsgate Traffic Order be quashed, following the judgement.

In the case, heard at the High Court’s Planning Court on 25th and 26th November 2020, Senior High Court Judge, Mrs Justice Lang DBE found overwhelmingly for the Claimant taxi trade bodies, United Trade Action Group (UTAG) and the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA).

The case succeeded on four of the five grounds advanced on behalf of the taxi trade:

  1. In the Streetspace Plan and subsequent Guidance, the Mayor and TfL respectively failed to distinguish the special status of taxis from “general traffic”, neither taking into account the distinct status of taxis as a form of public transport nor the travel needs of those who rely on accessible taxis.

  2. The Mayor and TfL failed to have proper regard to their Public Sector Equality Duties under Section 149 of the Equalities Act 2010.

  3. The Plan, Guidance and the A10 Order unlawfully breached licensed taxi drivers’ “legitimate expectation” of being permitted to use bus lanes to ply for hire effectively as a vital part of London’s integrated public transport network.

  4. The treatment of taxis in the Plan, Guidance and the Order and the decisions to exclude them were “seriously flawed” and “irrational”.

In the lengthy and detailed judgement, Mrs Justice Lang underlined a series of failings by TfL and the Mayor, describing their decision-making process as “seriously flawed”, with the decision to exclude taxis being based on “superficial” and “inadequate evidence”.

The Judge noted that denying taxis access to London’s roads could have “severe consequences” for passengers who cannot walk, cycle, or use public transport and that “the needs of people with protected characteristics, including the elderly or disabled”, were “not considered”, before the Plan was announced or the Guidance published.

The Court also highlighted the inadequacy of the Equalities Impact Assessment (EIA) undertaken by TfL on the likely impact of the A10 Order, describing parts as “perfunctory or non-existent” and finding that it “read as if its purpose was to justify the decision already taken”.

Mrs Justice Lang noted TfL’s EIA actually acknowledged that people requiring door-to-door access, who could not walk, might not be able to make their journeys due to the measures, yet provided no mitigation. The Judge described this as an “unacceptable omission”.

The Court also found taxi drivers had a legitimate expectation that they would be able to access bus lanes to ply for hire effectively, which had been unlawfully breached. This expectation was supported by TfL’s own Bus Lane Policy, which asserts that taxis “fulfil demands that cannot be met by the bus, train or tube”, and by previous Mayoral statements on the importance of taxi access to bus lanes.

Lawyers for the Defendants argued breaching this expectation was justified by the pandemic, but Mrs Justice Lang found it “unfair and contrary to good administration to use the pandemic as a justification for restricting taxis access to bus lanes”.

Finding the treatment of taxis was irrational, the Judge described excluding taxis as an “ill-considered response”, which “sought to take advantage of the pandemic” to push through “radical changes” which “far exceeded what was reasonably required”.

TfL sought permission to appeal the Judgement from Mrs Justice Lang, but were not granted permission to do so on the grounds that there was “no real prospect of success on appeal”, or “other compelling reason why the appeal should be heard”.

The LTDA is the largest membership body representing London’s black cab drivers. UTAG is a coalition of drivers and industry stakeholders working together with the common aim of securing the future of the taxi trade. The LTDA and UTAG jointly funded this legal action.

Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said: “It’s fantastic to see the Judge rightly recognising the key role licensed taxis play in our great City. This is an extremely important judgement for London’s hard working taxi drivers and the passengers who rely on them.

“I am delighted we were able to come together as a trade to successfully mount this challenge. The Court has upheld the importance of taxi access and points we’ve raised repeatedly with TfL and City Hall since they first announced Streetspace, but which had sadly fallen on deaf ears until now. We were told the pandemic gave policy makers free reign to act, without consultation, leaving us no choice other than to go to court. Today, the Judge has made it clear that this should not have been the case.

“The taxi trade has been an integral part of London’s public transport network for centuries. With our growing fleet of zero emission capable vehicles, we now want be part of its future and ensure London remains accessible and open to all. We hope this will now be possible.”

Angela Clarkson of the United Trade Action Group said: “This Judgement is not only an overwhelming victory for the Taxi trade but also for the elderly and people with impaired mobility who rely on us for accessible transport. Taxis are not a luxury for those who cannot cycle, walk or use other forms of public transport, but a necessity.

“The Mayor and TfL’s attitude that ‘if people cannot walk to or from a Taxi access point, they may not be able to make the journey’ is iniquitous and Mrs Justice Lang was highly critical of that in her Judgement.

“I hope the fact that we won this challenge very convincingly will make The Mayor, TfL and other policy makers realise that we are an integral part of London’s public transport infrastructure and must be afforded the same access to the roads as buses.”

David Matthias QC leading counsel for the Claimants said: “This judgment is of major importance not only to London’s iconic black cab trade but also to all people living, working or visiting London who are unable to walk significant distances or to cycle. In the course of her long and careful judgment Mrs Justice Lang has vindicated all the concerns raised by the taxi trade, both on their own account and on account of the disabled, the elderly and all other people prejudiced by the Streetspace Plan and its impacts throughout the capital.

“The taxi trade may feel justly proud that it has taken the Mayor and TfL to task in this matter and secured a seminal judgment which should guide the approach to be taken by local authorities to all future road schemes both in London and elsewhere in the country.”

Shaun Bailey, Conservative Candidate for London Mayor, welcomed today’s court decision. Bailey also called on the Mayor of London to compensate taxi drivers who lost business during the pandemic due to the restrictions.

Bailey said: “Sadiq Khan’s A10 Bishopsgate Streetspace scheme is unlawful and discriminatory — with the process behind it irrational and seriously flawed.

“Not my words, but the ruling of a High Court judge. This is a victory for taxis and for the Londoners who rely on them — particularly the elderly and those with disabilities.

“Given the severity of the judge’s ruling, Sadiq Khan must now publicly apologise for the harm his Streetspace scheme has caused.

“And he must compensate the hardworking taxi drivers who lost even more business in the middle of a pandemic, all thanks to his scheme.”

Responding to the judgement, TfL are said to be ‘disappointed’ with the ruling and will look to appeal.

A TfL spokesperson said: “We are disappointed with the court’s ruling and are seeking to appeal this judgment. Temporary Streetspace schemes are enabling safer essential journeys during this exceptionally challenging time and are vital to ensuring that increased car traffic does not threaten London’s recovery from coronavirus.

“We absolutely recognise the need for schemes such as our Bishopsgate corridor to work for the communities they serve and have worked hard to ensure that people across London, including those who use taxis, can continue to get to where they need to be. We also recognise the need for schemes to be delivered in a fair and consistent manner and have worked closely with the boroughs to create clear guidance for implementing schemes, updating this regularly to reflect what we have learnt. These schemes will stay in place pending our appeal."
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