Black cabs were granted permission to use London’s bus lanes under a “cosy deal” cooked up by Ken Livingstone and the taxi trade, the Court of Appeal was told today.
Nicholas Green QC, representing Europe’s largest minicab firm Addison Lee, said the arrangement breached European fair trade laws as it allowed black taxis an “accelerated course” through London that was unavailable to minicab passengers.
Three Appeal judges today began hearing Addison Lee’s bid to reverse a High Court ruling last July that maintained Transport for London’s ban on the capital’s 50,000 minicabs from using bus lanes.
TfL contests that only black cabs should be allowed to use bus lanes as they are unique in being able to “ply for hire” and it is easier for taxi drivers to be spotted and pick up passengers when using the lanes.
Opening the lanes to minicabs has sparked fears about buses being caught in congestion and a greater safety threat to cyclists.
Mr Green said: “My client has long taken the view that the initial decision to allow black cabs into bus lanes was a cosy deal between the then mayor, Mr Livingstone, and the black cab trade.”
He told the court he had just obtained previously undisclosed “dynamite” and “explosive” TfL research into bus lanes.
“It shows that the reasons TfL had worked on for 18 months to justify keeping private hire vehicles out of bus lanes would apply equally to black cabs,” he told the court.
But the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, who is hearing the case with Lord Justice Elias and Lord Justice Patten, said: “I can’t see anything that is explosive or dynamite at all.”
Mr Green said there was a “wafer-thin distinction” in practice between the way black cabs and minicabs were used – though minicabs must be pre-booked and cannot be hailed in the street.
He said Addison Lee, which has 2,900 minicabs, took £30m a year in fares for journeys to and from airports and Eurostar services at St Pancras but was penalised by being unable to use bus lanes to speed up its passengers’ journeys.
The case continues.
Source: Evening Standard