John Griffin goes back to court to appeal bus lane ruling

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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

John Griffin, chairman of Addison Lee, could face prosecution

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The chairman of Britain’s biggest minicab firm could face criminal prosecution for instructing his drivers to drive illegally in bus lanes, The Times has learnt.
John Griffin, chairman of Addison Lee, last month instructed his drivers to break the law by driving in bus lanes, promising to indemnify them for any fines incurred and claiming that it was “discriminatory” to restrict the lane use to black cabs and not private hire vehicles.

Though the High Court forced Addison Lee to withdraw the instruction to break the law, Ian Austin, the Labour MP for Dudley, wrote to the Metropolitan Police to ask whether Mr Griffin’s original instruction broke the law.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) confirmed that Transport for London (TfL), the capital’s highways agency, had also asked whether any criminal offence had been committed in issuing the instruction.

In a written response to Mr Austin, Commander Adrian Hanstock wrote: “TfL also asked the MPS to establish whether any offences are apparent arising from Mr Griffin’s directive.
“Mr Griffin’s letter has been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration and the MPS is awaiting the outcome of this legal advice.”
Commander Hanstock also confirmed that TfL had requested that the Metropolitan Police Service Safer Transport Command “actively prosecute any contravention of bus lanes by unauthorised vehicles”, which Commander Hanstock described as a “recognised priority” of road policing units.

An expert said that prosecutors at the CPS would now be considering allegations that Mr Griffin’s instruction to his drivers could constitute criminal incitement.
Nick Freeman, a solicitor specialising in traffic and speeding offences, said: “He is inciting his employees to commit an unlawful act and yes it is unlawful.
“There is a criminal aspect, in terms of inciting someone to commit an unlawful act.”

Mr Freeman added that the letter could allegedly also be actionable under employment law by drivers wishing to sever their employment contract.
He added: “If I was working for him I would leave and say I had been constructively dismissed, because I am being told to do something unlawful by my boss.”

The Addison Lee chairman also provoked criticism last month by claiming that cyclists should expect to be hurt by drivers if they are “throwing themselves on to some of the most congested spaces on the world” and criticised those who are “up in arms about what they see as the murder of cyclists on London roads”.
Ian Austin MP, who is also the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, which has been supporting The Times’s ‘Cities fit for cycling’ campaign, said: “John Griffin might think he is funny, but the police clearly take a different view and given the number of cyclists killed and injured, many people will think it is dangerous and irresponsible for someone in his position to encourage conflict on the roads and tell his drivers to ignore the rules.”

An Addison Lee spokesman declined to comment on the allegations, but said: “It is my understanding that TfL referred [the letter] to the police who referred it to the CPS. We’ve heard nothing back from that. We have withdrawn the letter and have had the judicial review of the bus lanes law brought forward to June, so it has been a success from our point of view.
“The drivers are all self-employed. They don’t have to go through anything special to terminate their contract. It was clear in the letter that it was up to the driver whether they drove in the bus lane and that if the passenger told the driver they didn’t want to use the bus lane, they didn’t have to go in them.”
The Times has been invited to attend Addison Lee’s driver training to assess whether it complies with demands made in the ‘Cities fit for cycling’ campaign about improving drivers’ awareness of cyclists.

Source: the times

IOD Director agrees With Griffin Regarding BusLanes!!

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Open up London cab competition, IoD tells TfL

Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, has today supported taxi firm Addison Lee in its dispute with Transport for London over use of London’s bus lanes:

“Addison Lee are right to say that the ban on their taxis using bus lanes is anti-competitive. TfL has handed black cabs special privileges which give them an unfair advantage over all other taxi firms. A level playing field for all cabs would better serve the interests of passengers and businesses alike. A date must be set for the judicial review as quickly as possible, to avoid this dispute dragging on.”

Story taken from StockMarketWire.com –

Taking us for a ride: Tories hit by new cash-for-access row over taxi contract

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DAVID Cameron was hit by a new cash-for-access row last night over revelations a major Tory donor held talks about lucrative Government work with a Cabinet minister.

Taxi tycoon John Griffin, a star of TV’s Secret Millionaire who has given the party more than £250,000, used a lobbyist to set up the meeting with Philip Hammond when he was Transport Secretary.

The Addison Lee chief’s visit to the Department of Transport came less than a month after he gave the party two £50,000 donations on a single day, Electoral Commission records show.

Mr Griffin, whose London firm has a £170million annual turnover, discussed cutting the Government’s ministerial car service with Mr Hammond and employing firms like his own instead. He also talked about transport during the Olympics.

Last night the donor said he had also been to parties hosted by the Prime Minister at Downing Street and at Mr Cameron’s own home, where the PM’s wife Sam and the couple’s children were also present.

The visits to No10 were not revealed in the lists of wealthy backers entertained there, which aides were forced to produce after the cash-for-dinners scandal.

Disgraced Tory Treasurer Peter Cruddas resigned after boasting “premier league” supporters who give more than £250,000 are wined and dined by Mr Cameron and could even have a say on policy.

The latest cash-for-access row will come as a big blow to the PM who is still reeling from revelations about super-rich party donor Bill Ives, who was given a police caution for harassing his ex-wife.

Yesterday the Department for Transport insisted it was “entirely appropriate” for the Secretary of State to meet bosses of big transport firms.

But former Deputy PM John Prescott blasted: “It’s scandalous that Addison Lee paid the Tories a quarter of a million pounds, then touted for Government business.

“The taxpayer shouldn’t be taken for a ride by these modern day highwaymen.”

Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle added: “It’s shocking a ‘premier league’ donor was given this kind of access to the then Transport Secretary.

“People will rightly be asking if ministers were willing to have their ears bent by vested interests, either at ‘kitchen suppers’ with the Prime Minister or in official meetings with ministers.”

Details of Mr Griffin’s meeting with Mr Hammond, who is now Defence Secretary, came after he sparked anger yesterday by ordering his drivers to use bus lanes. At the moment rival black cabs can use the lanes but private hire vehicles are banned.

The issue was raised by Mr Griffin at his meeting with Mr Hammond on October 13 last year, official minutes released under freedom of information laws show. The records reveal: “They discussed the Olympics, provision of secure cars for ministers and the background of the development of Addison Lee as a company.”

Mr Hammond “made clear no decision had been taken and that any option to move away from the current model for delivering the service towards private sector provision would have to be completed in accordance with public procurement rules”.

Mr Griffin told the minister that “having a dedicated car pool was an expensive luxury that private companies no longer provided for their employees”.

The minutes state he said: “They tended to leave it to other people, such as Addison Lee, to provide an ‘on demand’ service where the car and driver would not necessarily remain the same.”

Mr Griffin last night insisted he was not fishing for contracts and said he would be much better off talking to civil servants because they are “more influential”.

Mr Griffin said he deals mainly with FTSE 500 firms. He added: “They are our people. The big shots, not politicians. Politicians don’t have contracts but I like to go along and say hello because it is civil.”

He added: “Politicians are not running the country. Businessmen are. They are the housewives. We give them the money.”

Mr Griffin also sought to play down his access to Mr Cameron.

He said: “I’ve been twice to Number 10 Downing Street with about 70 other people there. I never spoke to him personally. I wasn’t going to be a brown-noser.”

Mr Griffin confirmed he had also been to the PM’s Notting Hill home around three years ago for a summer tea party which was attended by Sam and their kids.

He added: “I think there are people out there, quite forceful, who think ‘I’ve paid some money and you owe me something’, maybe there are, but I’m not that person.”

A spokesman for Mr Hammond said last night: “He does not recall having any information about donations to the Party at the time or when he subsequently met Mr Griffin in October 2011.”

The Conservative Party added: “There is no question of ­individuals gaining an unfair advantage by virtue of financial contributions.”

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Story taken from the daily mirror

TFL LETTER TO PHD WARNING THEM NOT TO BREAK THE LAW AND ENTER THE BUS LANES!!

Important information for all Private Hire Drivers and Operators
Under current regulations it is illegal for London private hire vehicles (PHVs) to drive in Bus Lanes operated by Transport for London (TfL) and London Local Authorities except when picking up and setting down passengers.

On Saturday 14 April it came to our attention that a letter had been issued by a director of Addison Lee plc to its PHV drivers in which he stated (among other things) that they were “fully entitled to use the bus lanes” and that he would indemnify them in respect of fines and other liabilities incurred as a result of following his advice.

A company owned by Addison Lee has brought legal proceedings arguing that the current regulations are in breach of European Union law. TfL is contesting those proceedings. The proceedings have not been determined and there has been no order by the court suspending the effect of the regulations.
The court will make its decision in due course. As regulatory authority for taxis and PHVs in London, TfL considers the decision to issue this letter inciting drivers to break the law now is irresponsible.

It has called upon them to rescind it. It is urgently considering legal and regulatory action against Addison Lee and will revoke their licence to operate if necessary.
However, quite separately from this action, TfL hereby issues the following notice to all licensed PHV drivers in London:
Under current regulations, driving a PHV in a Bus Lane, during the hours when the Bus Lane is operative (and other than to pick up and set down passengers) is a criminal offence for which PHV drivers may be personally prosecuted.

Those regulations remain valid until and unless there is a court order suspending their effect. There has been no such court order. This means that, as a PHV driver, you must not drive in Bus Lanes other than to pick up and set down passengers.

If you do so, you will be committing a criminal offence and you will be personally liable to prosecution, irrespective of any indemnity which anyone else may purport to give.
TfL has power to suspend or revoke a PHV operator’s or driver’s licence if it is no longer satisfied that the licence holder is fit to hold such a licence.
Please take note that:

o drivers who repeatedly contravene traffic regulations,
including by intentionally driving in Bus Lanes, other than to pick up or set down passengers, may be considered unfit to hold a PHV driver’s licence; and

o operators who encourage such conduct may be considered unfit to hold a PHV operator’s licence.

TfL requests operators to bring this notice to the attention of all their PHV drivers.

TFL PRESS RELEASE RE ADDISON LEE DRIVING IN BUS LANES

Addison Lee drivers warned not to drive in London’s bus lanes or face criminal prosecution

* Private hire vehicle drivers could be liable to personal criminal prosecution if they break traffic regulations, including by driving in bus lanes

* Drivers who repeatedly break traffic regulations could lose their PHV drivers’ licences

* Private Hire Vehicles are not allowed to use bus lanes in the capital and doing so is a criminal offence

* Police resources will be on street tomorrow morning to ensure bus lanes are only used by those vehicles permitted to do so

Transport for London today warned drivers employed by Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) company, Addison Lee, that they could face criminal prosecution if they drive in bus lanes; and that they could have their licences revoked if they do so repeatedly.

The warning comes after the management of Addison Lee told their drivers that they were entitled drive in bus lanes. Addison Lee has offered to indemnify their drivers against any penalties for driving in bus lanes. TfL has reminded drivers that such action is a criminal offence and they may be personally liable to prosecution, irrespective of any indemnity that Addison Lee may purport to give.

TfL are urgently considering legal and regulatory action against Addison Lee.

A company owned by Addison Lee has brought legal proceedings arguing that the current regulations are in breach of European Union law. TfL is contesting those proceedings, which have not been determined and there has been no order by the court suspending the regulations. The legal process is continuing.

Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Surface Transport, said: “The letter from the management of Addison Lee is utterly irresponsible. By issuing it, Addison Lee risk regulatory action against themselves and leave their staff liable to criminal prosecution. We have asked Addison Lee to withdraw their letter immediately. We are also writing to all Addison Lee drivers reminding them that repeated breaches of traffic regulations could see their licence to operate withdrawn.

“London’s bus lanes are in place to ensure the efficient operation of the bus network, which carries more than six million passengers a day. Allowing tens of thousands of Private Hire Vehicles to drive in bus lanes would seriously disrupt the bus network and our passengers’ ability to get around the capital.”

There are around 24,000 licensed taxis in London and over 60,000 licensed PHVs. Licensed taxis are allowed in many bus lanes. Taxis can legally ply for hire on the street, often picking up passengers from pavements by bus lanes. By contrast, PHVs are not allowed to ply for hire on the street. Allowing 60,000 additional vehicles into bus lanes would have a negative impact on bus journey times, potentially creating delays for millions of passengers.

TfL is working with the police to ensure additional on street police resources from tomorrow to enforce against anyone using a bus lane when not allowed to do so.

Griffin instructs his drivers to break the law re: london bus lanes

Letter Sent To All Drivers Of Addison Lee

Dear driver,

The director of Addison Lee plc believes that the current bus lane regulations, which allow London black cabs to use the bus lanes but prohibit private hire from doing so is illegal as it discriminates against private hire operators and drivers who offer a competing taxi service.

We also believe that it denies the public freedom of choice as journey times in the bus lanes are much quicker that those outside the lanes.

Our legal advice in this matter is that bus lane requierments are currently being misinterpreted to exclude PHV’s from bus lanes. Such misinterpretation is unlawful in the following respects.

a. It is in breach of European rules relating to the freedom of establishment and freedom to supply services
b. It infringes the general EU principal of equal treatment.
c. It infringes the English common law principles of equality before the law
d.it denies free and fair competition in providing an unfair advantage to one group of commercial operators over others.

Addison lee has sought and been granted a judicial review on this issue which is due to be heard by the end of the year. In the meantime Addison lee believes that we cannot allow our customer to continue to be victims of this unfair discriminatory treatment.

As chairman I can advise you that a lawful interpretation of the bus lane regulations entitles Addison lee drivers with private hire identifies to use all bus lanes in the same way as our competitors. Accordingly you are fully entitles to use the bus lanes.

We can confirm that entry into the bus lanes is not an endorsable offence and that we will indemnify all Addison lee drivers from any fines or other liabilities that may result from using the bus lanes as a result of this advice.

Should any conflict arise between yourself and any black taxi operator please be patient, make a note of any details and use your camera where possible.

Signed

John Griffin
Chairman, Addison Lee PLC