Drivers of the capital’s 25,000 black cabs could be illegally receiving state aid, according to the Court of Appeal.
Part of minicab operator Addison Lee’s legal battle to win the same rights to use bus lanes as London’s iconic black taxis is heading for the European Court of Justice after the British court asked for a ruling on European anti-competition law.
The court has requested a European ruling on whether “making a bus lane on a public road available to black cabs but not minicabs, during the hours of operation of that bus lane, involves the use of ‘State resources’ of Article 107 (1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union”.
This is the section of the European Treaty originally intended to stop member nations from illegally supporting their major industries to give them advantages over other nations It was used to force RBS to sell hundreds of bank branches as a condition of its huge state bail-out during the financial crisis.
The ruling could ultimately mean the right to use London’s roads could be decided across the Channel in the Luxembourg-based court.
Addison Lee, through its subsidiary Eventech, has been fighting with Transport for London (TfL) for several years to win equal rights to black cabs. In April the battle reached the Court of Appeal with a ruling now awaited.
However, only in recent weeks have documents been officially released which revealed the court wanted a European decision on state aid.
A spokesman for Addison Lee said: “We are pleased that the matter has been referred to the European Courts as we 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 are pleased to have the opportunity to continue the fight against this injustice.”
A TfL spokesman said: “In the original judicial review proceedings, we explained to the court that taxis are allowed to drive in bus lanes because they can ply for hire, whereas minicabs cannot. It would be more difficult to hail a taxi, especially on a busy road, if the vehicle concerned was not near to the kerb. Mr Justice Burton agreed.
“The Court of Appeal has referred to the European Court of Justice the issue of whether or not TfL’s policy, which allows taxis but not private hire vehicles to drive in bus lanes, amounts to State aid. Once the European Court has given its judgment on this aspect, the case will be referred back to the Court of Appeal for a decision on the wider appeal. Pending that outcome, we continue to maintain our policy on access to bus lanes and to contest the appeal.”
Source: The Telegraph