London minicab firm Addison Lee loses bus lane battle but says it plans to appeal
High Court judge says there is an "obvious and compelling" case for TfL keeping minicabs out of bus lanes
London minicab firm Addison Lee plans to appeal against a high court judge’s decision yesterday not to permit its drivers to use their vehicle’s in London’s bus lanes. The company itself had sought the judicial review of Transport for London (TfL) rules which permit licensed taxis, also known as black cabs, from using the lanes but prevent minicabs from doing so, claiming that it is discriminatory and in breach of European Union competition law.
Mr Justice Burton yesterday described TfL’s restrictions on which vehicles are allowed to use bus lanes as “obvious and compelling," reports The Guardian, saying: "There is to my mind a clear distinction between the need of black cabs (and their passengers and the public) for them to be in the bus lanes, by way of visibility and availability of, and access to, black cabs for those hailing a cruising taxi."
"I consider it makes entire good sense for black cabs to be travelling in bus lanes. Minicabs just do not have the need to use the bus lane, and black cabs do," he added.
"We are extremely disappointed with today's judgment," commented Mr Griffin. "The current bus lane legislation is anti-competitive and unfairly discriminates against millions of Londoners who use private hire vehicles every day.
“There is no reason for black taxis to have a monopoly on bus lanes – we should either all be in or all be out. We still believe that the current legislation is a breach of the EU and UK law. You can't discriminate between two types of taxis and we will continue to fight this injustice."
The firm has said that it now plans to appeal the judgment to the Court of Appeal as well as seeking a ruling, to the extent that European Union law applies, from the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
TfL said that it was "pleased that the court has recognised the important distinction between taxis and minicabs." Its managing director of surface transport, Leon Daniels, added: "Londoners will doubtless also be pleased to know that the court has ordered Addison Lee to meet TfL's costs in defending this claim."
The firm’s founder and chairman, John Griffin, was condemned by cycle safety campaigners and London politicians in April earlier this year after he wrote to its 4,000 drivers telling them to use the bus lanes pending the outcome of the judicial review, saying that the company would indemnify them against any fines and other costs they incurred. TfL subsequently secured an injunction that ordered the firm to withdraw that instruction as well as the offer to reimburse drivers for any fines.
The capital’s bus lanes provide those on bikes with a haven of sorts from the city’s traffic, and Mr Griffin further angered cyclists when details of a column he had penned for the company magazine emerged in which he spoke about cyclists killed on London’s roads, concluding by saying, “It is time for us to say to cyclists, ‘You want to join our gang, get trained and pay up’.”
The episode led to calls for a boycott of Addison Lee, as well as a ‘die-in’ being staged in protest outside the company’s offices in North London. The company, whose drivers have long been singled out by many London cyclists as being particularly inconsiderate of those on two wheels, are also now set to receive cycle awareness training.
Previously, Mr Griffin, who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Conservative Party via his company, had fought without success for more than a decade with the former Labour Government to have the M4 bus lane scrapped; former Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond ordered it to be removed shortly after the Coalition Government came to power in June 2010.
Meanwhile, it was reported on Tuesday that the company has appointed corporate communications firm Ogilvy as its PR advisers. In a week when the company has not only lost that judicial review over bus lanes but has also been ordered by City of Westminster Council to remove thousands of cigarette bins throughout the borough that bear its logo, it sounds like they already have their work cut out.