Portsmouth council is to open bus lanes in the city to all private hire drivers in a three-month trial. The move has been welcomed by drivers, who previously were excluded from the lanes, while hackney carriages were allowed to use them.
Around 1,000 private hire vehicles are registered in the city compared to the 214 hackney cabs. Previous attempts were made in 2011 and 2015 to allow them access to the bus lanes, but these were thwarted by opposition from Hampshire Police, bus operators and cyclists.
This time the council has ignored the cycle lobby’s claims that
a “three-fold increase” in the number of cars permitted in the lanes could endanger the lives of cyclists.
However, cabinet member for transport Lynne Stagg said the council would be “reactive to evidence” during the trial, which is set to start in March and run for a minimum of three months. Cllr Stagg said: “Bus lanes are meant to be for buses and we want to encourage more people to use buses. But as long as it doesn’t slow them down then that’s reasonably OK.”
She said any future decision on making the temporary permission permanent was entirely up to the drivers. “The onus is on private hire drivers. If safety is compromised, if casualties increase, if there are more complaints then that’s it – the trial fails.”
The trial has been welcomed by Cllr Scott Payter-Harris, who has long called for it, but he said a period of more than three months would be more effective. “This is a good move forward for the private hire trade. I do think for a more complete dataset we realistically need to be looking at a minimum of six months so you can see drivers’ patterns and behaviour.”