European decision reached on black cabs and bus lanes

Ref. Eventech (Judgment) [2015] EUECJ C-518/13

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) has recently ruled on an interesting issue surrounding London’s iconic black cabs. Specifically, whether their use of bus lanes, which minicabs are not allowed to use, amounted to ‘selective economic advantage’.

The challenge had been brought by Eventech – a subsidiary of minicabs operator Addison Lee – and sought to argue against Transport for London’s policy.

The ECJ commented that black cabs and minicabs were:

“In factual and legal situations which are sufficiently distinct to permit the view that they are not comparable and that the bus lanes policy therefore does not confer a selective economic advantage on black cabs”.

In distinguishing the two types of taxi, the court noted that “only black cabs can ply for hire; they are subject to the rule of ‘compellability’; they must be recognisable and capable of conveying persons in wheelchairs, and their drivers must set the fares for their services by means of a taxi meter and have a particularly thorough knowledge of the city of London”.

The court concluded that:

  • The practice of permitting… black cabs to use bus lanes on public roads … while prohibiting minicabs from using those lanes, except in order to pick up and set down passengers who have pre-booked such vehicles, does not appear, though it is for the referring court to determine, to be such as to involve a commitment of State resources or to confer on black cabs a selective economic advantage for the purpose of Article 107(1) TFEU.
  • It is conceivable that the practice of permitting black cabs to use bus lanes on public roads… while prohibiting minicabs from using those lanes, except in order to pick up or set down passengers who have pre-booked such vehicles, may be such as to affect trade between Member States within the meaning of Article 107(1) TFEU, which it is for the referring court to determine.

The ruling is reported to have been welcomed by TfL. Its Managing Director of Surface Transport, Leon Daniels, commented:

“Our policy on bus lanes was upheld by the High Court. We welcome the opinion from the Advocate General and now the European Court of Justice, but ultimately await the decision of the Court of Appeal. As this process continues we are maintaining our well-understood and effective policy that helps to keep London moving in the interest of everyone.”

We await the ruling of the Court of Appeal.

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SRJ                                                                                                                                             16.01.15

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