Streetspace Plan for Bishopsgate Overturned in High Court

There has been an important judgement in the High Court after a Judicial Review was launched by taxi drivers. They challenged the blocking of Bishopsgate in the City of London (the A10) to taxi drivers by the use of a “bus gate”. Mrs Justice Lang declared the Traffic Order used was unlawful.

This is the press release issued by the High Court on the judgement:

– The Streetspace for London Plan and associated Guidance failed to recognise the distinct status of taxis as an important form of accessible public transport,

– The Streetspace Plan, associated Guidance and A10 Bishopsgate Traffic Order breached licensed taxi drivers1 legitimate expectation to be allowed to use bus lanes to ply for hire effectively across London,

– There was a failure to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty under the 2010 Equality Act and account for needs of passengers with protected characteristics,

– The Mayor and TfL took advantage of the pandemic to push through ‘‘radical changes”’.

– The “‘decisions were not a rational response to the issues which arose as a result of the COVID.

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The Court has now ordered that the Streetspace Plan, Interim Guidance to Boroughs and the A10 Bishopsgate Traffic Order be quashed following the judgement. Justice Lang called the measures an “ill-considered response” to the pandemic including radical changes and it was clear that “the Mayor and TfL intended these schemes would become permanent, once the temporary orders expired”.

Comment: The Streetspace Plan was used by TfL to introduce numerous road closures including Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) and such measures as cycle lanes without prior public consultation across many parts of London. It was very clear that this had nothing to do with the pandemic at all but was simply being used to bring in such measures quickly and without consultation.

Although this judgement specifically relates to the challenge by taxi drivers it could have wider implications as similar legal challenges are being mounted for several LTNs (a hearing is taking place on the 2nd of February in the High Court on those). The failure to properly recognise the needs of the disadvantaged under the Equality Act is particularly significant, and the failure to give due regard to the network management duty imposed by section 16 of the 2004 Traffic Management Act. It seems likely that Mayor Khan will appeal this judgement, using taxpayers’ money to do so of course.

It’s worth saying that the last time I walked down Bishopsgate before the pandemic hit on a hot summer day, the level of air pollution was such as to noticeably affect my lungs. But the main cause was clearly the long queue of almost stationary diesel buses on the road. To ban all vehicles except buses was totally irrational. Bishopsgate is a very important route for traffic to access parts of the City now that Bank junction has been closed.

The judicial review was submitted on behalf of the UNITED TRADE ACTION GROUP LIMITED and the LICENSED TAXI DRIVERS ASSOCIATION LIMITED, and their solicitors were Chiltern Law.

Chiltern Law Comments: https://www.chilternlaw.com/tfl-every-journey-matters-unless-you-are-a-taxi/

Full legal judgement: https://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2021/72.html&query=(UTAG)+AND+(LTDA)

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Legal Challenge Against LTNs in Ealing

A group named One Ealing have launched a legal challenge against Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in the borough. They are raising funds using Crowdfunder to cover their costs and I suggest that you give them some support. See https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/oneealing

They say on their web site: “Ealing Council has divided our community by installing CCTV cameras, bollards and placing planters in an unsafe and undemocratic manner. We are all for cleaner air, but not at the expense of the residents and schools on the main roads”. In other words, they have the same complaints as in other London boroughs where LTNs are installed.

PLEASE SUPPORT THEM.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Opposition to Mayor’s Air Pollution Plans

I have covered some of the dubious aspects of the Mayor’s approach to tackling air pollution in London before. The T-Charge and ULEZ plans will be very expensive for Londoners, may have little effect and will target private car users unnecessarily when they are very minor contributors to emissions.

Campaign group FairFuelUK have launched a fund-raising to finance a judicial review of the T-Charge. The Toxicity Charge is a £10 penalty to be paid from October by older vehicles that do not meet newer emission standards if they are driven into the central Congestion Charging area. In summary they argue that even TfL concede it will have little impact on air pollution so it’s another of those “political gestures” that will impose major costs on some of the poorer road users. Go here for more information and to help fund the case: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/stop-toxic-taxes/

Their arguments are backed up by a recently published report from the GLA Conservatives under the title “Clearing The Air”. This is a comprehensive analysis of London’s air pollution problems, and Mayor Sadiq Khan’s proposals. It also makes some alternative suggestions which would lessen the financial impact of the plans.

They also argue that the T-Charge should be scrapped and plans to bring forward the ULEZ by a year and then extending it across most of London should be abandoned. They point out that just implementing the latter could cost as much as £810 million, i.e. £220 for every household in London.

Make sure you read their full report if you want to get a good understanding of the issues around transport and air pollution in London. See: http://glaconservatives.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/ClearingTheAir.pdf

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Uber Wins Judicial Review

The Judicial Review of the law on taxi metering has resulted in an initial victory for Uber. In the High Court Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that the smartphone app used in Uber vehicles cannot be consider a taxi meter. Only black cabs are legally allowed to operate taxi meters and both the drivers of such vehicles and operators of conventionally booked Private Hire Vehicles were none too pleased with the result. They may appeal although to some extent this result may be overtaken by the consultation currently being undertaken by the Major on the regulations applied to all vehicles for hire.

See https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/tph/private-hire-proposals if you wish to respond to the Mayor’s consultation.

This writer understands perfectly the feelings of taxi drivers. Their working conditions have been made a lot more difficult in recent years by numerous road closures, restrictions on parking/stopping, slowing of traffic by larger number of cyclists and buses on the roads, removal of road space and increased traffic congestion – the latter of course often caused by TfL and local borough policies and the increase in PHV numbers.

Their costs have been going up and the Mayor is requiring new zero emission vehicles to be used in the near future.

Their original monopoly on their client’s ability to hail cabs quickly and easily is being undermined by new technology and their key qualification and training – the “knowledge” – has been made redundant by SatNav systems.

The world has been changing rapidly in terms of vehicle technology but black cab drivers have resisted change and continue to do so. They surely need to embrace new technology rather than oppose it.

One key question that needs to be faced, but has not been, is whether there should be any restriction on the number of taxis or PHV vehicles in London. It is not clear to me that there should be. Not many other markets have artificial restrictions on supply, although one might argue that with limited road space the numbers should be limited (for example by rationing on price the number who are willing to pay for a license). But that is congestion charging in effect and might inconvenience the public who uses taxis.

A lot more thought and research into how other countries manage taxi operations is surely required, whereas the consultation we have at present seems focussed on minor tinkering to preserve the status quo.

Roger Lawson