London's black cabs have retained the exclusive right to share the capital's bus lanes as a result of a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
Eventech, the owner of a minicab fleet used by Addison Lee, brought the case to the ECJ after losing at the High Court.
The company decided to fight for the freedom of private-hire vehicles to use London's bus lanes after some drivers were fined for breaking the rules.
Eventech argued that the status quo amounted to state aid that is illegal under EU law. However, these arguments failed to convince the court and regulator Transport for London proved victorious. A key difference, which the court used to justify its decision, was that black cabs can be hailed from the street without the need for a booking.
The ECJ said in a statement:
Since taxis are in a factual and legal situation which is distinct from that of private-hire vehicles, that permission does not appear to be such as to confer, through state resources, a selective economic advantage.
Simon Neill, competition partner at international law firm Osborne Clarke, commented:
This decision demonstrates how lawmakers’ reluctance to deviate from the status quo places them at odds with technological advances. Notwithstanding this decision, traffic systems are going to have to change to allow for a smart cities future. Driverless cars, buses and fleet vehicles are just around the corner and here we are, debating a legacy legal position from the 1950s.
Neil added that the ECJ's decision represented a failure to evolve and now "legal and regulatory frameworks threaten to stifle progress and investment in smarter cities". Justin Peters, chief executive of taxi-app Kabbee, has also been a fierce opponent of cabbies' monopoly on bus lanes.
Commenting on today's announcement, Peters said:
I am disappointed at the decision, however I still think there should be an exception to the rule, that gives minicabs access to bus lanes during public transport strikes, to help keep London moving.
Speaking to City A.M. last year, Peters argued the status quo was unjustifiable and prevents a better service. He added there could be up to "60,000 votes" for a politician who pledged to open up the bus lanes to the likes of Kabbee and Uber.