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Addison Lee loses bus lane ban case at European Court of Justice

Private hire firm's latest attempt to overturn TfL bus lane ban on minicabs fails...

Addison Lee has lost a case at the European Court of Justice in which it argued that a Transport for London (TfL) not to allow private hire firms to use bus lanes in the capital was against European competition law since it conferred an unfair economic advantage on licensed taxi drivers.

The proceedings, brought by the London-based minicab firm’s subsidiary Eventech, are separate to those relating to a judicial review of TfL’s policy in which a decision from the Court of Appeal is pending.

The latter proceedings date back to 2012, the same year in which Addison Lee’s founder and chairman John Griffin’s controversial remarks about cyclists saw a boycott of the company and a die-in staged outside its offices.

He also told the firm’s 4,000 drivers to use bus lanes pending the outcome of the judicial review and said the company would indemnify them against any fines and other costs they incurred.

TfL subsequently secured an injunction that ordered the firm to withdraw his instruction as well as the offer.

Like the High Court in the 2012 judicial review, the ECJ has held that taxis, which are permitted to use bus lanes, differ from minicabs.

In its judgment, the ECF said that taxis, due to their "legal status, are in a factual and legal situation which is distinct from that of minicabs, and consequently those two categories of vehicles are not comparable."

It noted that different standards applied to taxis instead of minicabs, including having metered fares, drivers having to pass the ‘Knowledge’ and requirements regarding their vehicles.

As a result, it said that TfL’s bus lane policy did not give taxi drivers a selective economic advantage over minicab operators.

While its argument under European competition law has met a dead end, Addison Lee is trying to have the 2012 High Court decision overturned at the Court of Appeal, which heard the case in April 2013 but has not yet issued its judgment.

Reacting to the ECJ decision, Leon Daniels, TfL's managing director of surface transport, commented: “Our policy on bus lanes was upheld by the High Court.

"We welcome the opinion from the Advocate General and now the European Court of Justice, but ultimately await the decision of the Court of Appeal.

“As this process continues we are maintaining our well-understood and effective policy that helps to keep London moving in the interest of everyone.”

In his 2012 judgment on the judicial review, High Court judge Mr Justice Burton said: “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.

He added: “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.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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