TfL seeks High Court injuction against Addison Lee in bus lane row

Judges asked to order withdrawal of letter telling firm's drivers to break law by using bus lanes

by Simon_MacMichael   April 18, 2012  

Addison Lee logo - white on black

Transport for London has applied for a High Court injunction ordering minicab firm Addison Lee to withdraw a letter sent out to its drivers at the weekend in which it instructed its drivers to break the law by driving in bus lanes.

The business, which operates more than 3,500 private hire cars in London, has applied for a judicial review of regulations which permit licensed taxi cabs to use the capital’s bus lanes, but prevent minicabs, or private hire vehicles, from doing likewise, claiming that the rules are anti-competitive.

As reported here on road.cc earlier this week, the letter from the firm’s chairman, John Griffin, provoked an angry response from Transport for London (TfL) which, among other things, warned Addison Lee and its drivers, who largely work on a self-employed basis, that they faced having their licences revoked if they persistently broke the law.

BBC News reports that TfL has now sought a High Court injunction to order the letter sent out by Mr Griffin to be withdrawn, with its director of surface transport, Leon Daniels, saying: "We have applied to the High Court for an interim injunction that will require Addison Lee to withdraw the letter it sent to its drivers on 14 April advising them to drive in bus lanes and telling them they were indemnified against any fine or liability incurred.

"The case will be heard on Monday 23 April."

Cyclists, of course, are also allowed to use bus lanes and on Monday, London Cycling Campaign (LCC) not only criticised Addison Lee’s move but also encouraged TfL to follow the example of the City of London, which governs the historic Square Mile in the heart of the capital, to also ban licensed taxi cabs from bus lanes, as well as reconsidering its decision to let motorcycles use them.

"It's a measure of the poor quality of cycling provision in the capital that many cyclists see the bus lane network as a safe haven, even though it's shared with buses, black taxis and motorcycles,” explained LCC’s Mike Cavenett.

"Adding tens of thousands of extra motor vehicles to bus lanes will severely disadvantage bus passengers and cyclists.

"We urge Transport for London to look at the City of London, where both black taxis and private hire vehicles are banned from bus lanes, and to repeal its harmful motorbikes in bus lanes measure," he added.

7 user comments

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Silly sods. It is an interesting point though - why do dirty diesel black cabs get this privilege?

I must agree with the idea of getting motorbikes back out of bus lanes. Some (mostly couriers) are nutters - speeding within inches of cyclists. It seems to have encouraged many motorbike riders to ignore ASLs - very annoying.*

Of course it means traffic might flow more smoothly by marginally increasing capacity. That's all TfL care about, not anyone's safety.

*I know that many motorcyclists are sensible road users. However, I will make a point of pulling up in front of them if they have forced their way to the front of the 'bike box'.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
18th April 2012 - 13:41

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Why do they get this privilege? Their emissions (or some of them, as many modern cabs are actually fairly clean) is not a reason for denying them - that should be addressed but by other means.

I can think of a few reasons:

- there are 24,000 black cabs, and over 65,000 licensed minicabs. With those as well, there would no longer be any point in having bus lanes at all
- cabbies have to undetake a course and an exam called the "Knowledge". Minicabs drivers do not
- cabbies are subject to enhanced criminal records checks. Minicab drivers are not
- only cabbies are permitted to "ply for hire" ie accept fares flagged on the street. If the bus lane issue discriminates against minicabs, then logically so does this, and minicab drivers should be able to ply for hire
- the Met Police hackney carriage office imposes draconian standards on cabs for roadworthiness and condition, to the point that even being dirty could cause them to be grounded until washed. Minicabs are not so tightly regulated
- cabbies, once they have responded to a hail, have a legal obligation to accept any fare which is within a 6 mile radius of Charing Cross, however inconvenient for them. Minicabs are under no such obligations
- cabbies don't make enough money to be able to bung 250 big ones the way of the Tory party and so buy donor kebabs for two at No 10

posted by Paul M [308 posts]
18th April 2012 - 14:33

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Paul M wrote:
Why do they get this privilege? Their emissions (or some of them, as many modern cabs are actually fairly clean) is not a reason for denying them - that should be addressed but by other means.

I can think of a few reasons:

- there are 24,000 black cabs, and over 65,000 licensed minicabs. With those as well, there would no longer be any point in having bus lanes at all
- cabbies have to undetake a course and an exam called the "Knowledge". Minicabs drivers do not
- cabbies are subject to enhanced criminal records checks. Minicab drivers are not
- only cabbies are permitted to "ply for hire" ie accept fares flagged on the street. If the bus lane issue discriminates against minicabs, then logically so does this, and minicab drivers should be able to ply for hire
- the Met Police hackney carriage office imposes draconian standards on cabs for roadworthiness and condition, to the point that even being dirty could cause them to be grounded until washed. Minicabs are not so tightly regulated
- cabbies, once they have responded to a hail, have a legal obligation to accept any fare which is within a 6 mile radius of Charing Cross, however inconvenient for them. Minicabs are under no such obligations
- cabbies don't make enough money to be able to bung 250 big ones the way of the Tory party and so buy donor kebabs for two at No 10

All good points, Paul M.

The generally higher standards of black cabs do separate them from mini cabs. If only they abided by their obligations. I've had several cabbies drive off when I've told them where I'd like to go (east London but well with the 6 mile radius). I know the score - get their number and report them. No evidence? Shame.

Passing 'the Knowledge' is an impressive feat. The last black cab who did agree to take me home had to be given directions. Not that impressive. Even less impressive was his attitude that he was doing me a favour for driving to one of the less well-off areas of the capital.

After all that there's the attitude of some black cab drivers to cyclists which is disgusting. I know it's not all black cab drivers, just enough number to make me think 'how do they get away with it?' and 'why are they afforded the privilege of using bus lanes when they have so little respect for other road users?'

I compare my experience of black cabs with the now infamous Addison-Lee. Bloke in a suit turns up, opens the door to his spotless motor and drives me to my destination (without trying to get me to discuss the transfer of the latest footballer to his club).

Fortunately I ride a bike so don't have to give either of them too much hard-earned cash.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
18th April 2012 - 15:39

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It'd be nice to have more things out of the bus-lanes, but if anyone is going to be allowed to use them, hackney carriages are acceptable, though I wish the emissions standards for them were more acceptable, there are some filthy engines/exhausts in use on black cabs.

Addison Lee, entirely un-fine. These guys generally complete ass-hats. If I see them in a cycling lane they'll get a tongue lashing, it's illegal for a reason.

rrrrrrrrr.

posted by kaptnkrunch [57 posts]
18th April 2012 - 16:24

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Coleman - A lot of motorcyclists are cyclists also. Since motorcycles were allowed in bus lanes, TfL data shows there has been a corresponding fall in accidents. Despite concerns amongst some cyclists over the safety of allowing motorcycles in bus lanes, there has been no increase in bicycle/motorcycle accidents, quite the reverse as it happens. You admit that most motorcyclists do not break the law but wish to see motorcyclists disallowed from using bus lanes, despite the safety benefits this offers. I think you need to check the TfL data on motorcycle accidents in London. They are rather alarming, which was why this measure was introduced.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2187 posts]
19th April 2012 - 7:52

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And yours are good too, Coleman. There is no doubt that cabies don't always know where they are going, and do sometimes demur at taking a fare if for example it is not on the way home at the end of their shift. Those are however not valid arguments against the proposition that they should enjoy any privileges (of course there may be valid arguments, just not these ones). They have to make a significant investment of time and money and submit themselves to supervision and regulation which does not apply to minicab drivers. The fact that they don't always observe them is another matter.

I have no particular love for cabbies - I have been left-hooked by cabs three times so far and two years after the last time I have not yet fully recovered from the injuries I sustained - but I can just about live with them in bus lanes. Minicabs, I can't

posted by Paul M [308 posts]
19th April 2012 - 9:42

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Interesting discussion with my firm's Money Laundering Reporting Officer.

If deliberately infringing a bus lane can be prosecuted as a criminal offence by TfL, then accepting and processing money as fares for the trip could arguably be classified as "Proceeds of Crime" under POCA and ML regs. No regulated business (most of the City of London) should tolerate that. The MLRO didn't think he would have an obligation to report Adlee to the National Criminal Investigation Service because the acts are common knowledge, but it raises ethical questions for the customer.....

posted by Paul M [308 posts]
19th April 2012 - 15:04

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