When is a taxi not a taxi? When it drives down Preston’s new Fishergate bus lanes.
A week into the experimental jam-busting scheme, private hire drivers are seeing red after being told only black cabs can use them.
Even though people ring us up and ask for a taxi, we don’t qualify to use the bus lanes like black cabs do.
“It’s discrimination,” said Paul Entwistle a manager at New City VIP Cars in the city centre. “We’ve been told that even though the signs say only buses, bikes and taxis can use the lanes, we aren’t classed as taxis.
“Even though people ring us up and ask for a taxi, we don’t qualify to use the bus lanes like black cabs do. So we have to make a two-mile detour to get around that stretch of Fishergate. It’s outrageous.”
The new bus lanes came into force last Monday and in the first week thousands of drivers have already been caught on camera ignoring the signs.
Motorists who flout the new rules face a £60 fine. Yet there have still been nose-to-tail queues down the restricted section of Fishergate between the junctions with Mount Street and Corporation Street.
Drivers are also turning a blind eye to “no right turn” signs at the top of Butler Street, even though they too run the risk of a £60 penalty.
“It’s incredible to see all this traffic heading down the bus lanes as if the signs aren’t there,” said Paul. “Our drivers are obeying the new regulations and taking the detour around the city. But it isn’t fair that we should be barred from using a bus and taxi lane while black cabs aren’t.
“Ultimately it’s our customers who suffer because two miles extra on a fare can add up to £4 – or even £5 if you get stuck in traffic on the ring road. We take many elderly and disabled people into the city centre. We have one 96-year-old lady who every two weeks goes to a hairdresser’s shop in the middle of that section of Fishergate.
“She needs help getting in and out of the car. So we are going to have to tell her we can’t take her any more.”
Peter Bell, LCC’s highway network control manager said: “Only Hackney carriages are allowed to use the Fishergate bus lanes, in common with many similar schemes across the country. Private hire vehicles are not allowed to use them.”
“The changes along Fishergate between Mount Street and Corporation Street are only in place between 11am and 6pm, and involve a short 140-metre section.
“There are a number of drop-off points a short distance from Fishergate which people can use.”