Taxi drivers mount legal challenge over Streetspace schemes

Organisations representing London taxi drivers have won permission to take the capital’s mayor to judicial review over street closures.

The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) and United Trade Action Group (UTAG) will take the case against Mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TfL) over both the implementation of their Streetspace scheme and specifically part of it in Bishopsgate, in the City of London.

Mr Khan launched Streetspace in May as a measure to prevent a build-up of traffic if people were reluctant to use public transport because of the pandemic.

They argue that TfL’s decision breaches a legitimate expectation on the part of taxi drivers that they will be able to pass and ply for hire along roads used by London buses generally, and on Bishopsgate in particular, which is closed by bus gates.

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Solicitors from Chiltern Law have successfully applied to the High Court to have these two actions combined.

The judicial review was granted on the grounds that the schemes may fail to account for the legal status of taxis and that drivers have a legitimate expectation that they can go anywhere that a bus can, based on prior experience and policy.

Granting permission, Sir Ross Cranston said: “Arguably based on that legitimate expectation there is the considerable investment of personal effort needed to pass the ‘Knowledge of London’, and on the expense of vehicles capable of being licensed as hackney carriages.”

LTDA chair Richard Massett said drivers had sought to work constructively with transport authorities over the pandemic but “they have repeatedly disregarded our concerns and simply pushed ahead with the plans.

"This includes installing bus gates within the A10 Bishopsgate corridor scheme, excluding taxis, and removing through access. 

“These schemes are being implemented with no proper consultation and with more ‘bus-only' zones expected to follow, we were left with no option other than to challenge the schemes through the courts."

A spokesperson for the Mayor said: “The Mayor makes no apologies for the temporary emergency Streetspace measures TfL has put in place to encourage Londoners to make as many journeys as possible by bike or on foot to help enable social distancing on public transport, and prevent the likelihood of danger to other road users.

“Taxis have access to the vast majority of the area covered via the Bishopsgate traffic restrictions - including Liverpool Street station - and they have access to the whole area outside of weekdays 7am to 7pm. They are also able to use 90% of the 24-hour bus lanes being trialled on TfL roads – helping speed up journey times.”

The spokesperson said a statutory consultation would take place before any Streetspace schemes become permanent.

Mark Smulian

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