Transport for London and London Mayor Sadiq Khan acted unlawfully when they announced that taxis would be banned from parts of Bishopsgate under the Streetspace for London plan, the High Court has ruled.
The plan called for taxis to be banned from two sections of Bishopsgate in the City of London between 7am and 7pm on weekdays to help speed up buses and “prioritise people walking and cycling”.
But ruling on an action brought by the United Trade Action Group (UTAG) and the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), Mrs Justice Beverley Lang described TfL and the Mayoral office’s decision-making process as “seriously flawed”.
She also said the scheme would impact those requiring door-to-door travel, such as the disabled or elderly, adding that Mayor Khan and TfL “took advantage of the pandemic” to implement “radical changes”.
Mrs Lang told the court the Mayor and TfL failed to distinguish taxis from “general traffic” and failed to recognise them as a mode of public transport. She said: “It was both unfair and irrational to introduce such extreme measures, if it was not necessary to do so, when they impacted so adversely on certain sections of the public.”
Mrs Justice Lang also said that as TfL’s bus lanes policy permitted taxis to use bus lanes in all but the most exceptional cases, the claimants had a legitimate expectation that they would be distinguished from general traffic and would be allowed to use the Bishopsgate bus lanes. She rejected the TfL and the Mayor’s claim that any departure from such policies was proportionate in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
LTDA General Secretary Steve McNamara said: “It’s fantastic to see the Judge rightly recognising the key role licensed taxis play in our great City. This is an extremely important judgment for London’s hard working taxi drivers and the passengers who rely on them.”
Shaun Bailey, the rival candidate in the forthcoming London mayoral elections, said: “Given the severity of the judge’s ruling, Sadiq Khan must now publicly apologise for the harm his Streetspace scheme has caused. And he must compensate the hardworking taxi drivers who lost even more business in the middle of a pandemic, all thanks to his scheme.”
The High Court has now quashed the Streetspace plan, Interim Guidance to Boroughs and the A10 Bishopsgate Traffic Order. TfL sought permission to appeal the judgment, but was denied on the grounds that there was “no real prospect of success on appeal”.
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “We are very disappointed by the court’s ruling. This route has long suffered with a poor safety record and slow bus speeds, and the scheme aimed to tackle these issues, reducing road danger for vulnerable road users and improving the flow of bus traffic.
“Our temporary emergency Streetspace measures are vital to help support both walking and the huge increase in cycling we’ve seen since the pandemic began, reduce the risk of a damaging car-based recovery and enable social distancing and much faster journeys on public transport, reducing the risk of infection. We mustn’t get through one public health crisis only to face another caused by congestion and toxic air pollution.”
A TfL spokesperson said: “Temporary Streetspace schemes are enabling safer essential journeys during this exceptionally challenging time and are vital to ensuring that increased car traffic does not threaten London’s recovery from coronavirus.
“We absolutely recognise the need for schemes such as our Bishopsgate corridor to work for the communities they serve and have worked hard to ensure that people across London, including those who use taxis, can continue to get to where they need to be.”
TfL said it could “carefully consider” its next steps – which must include the removal of the restrictions on taxis.