New Preston city centre bus lane blasted by private hire cabbies
Private hire drivers in Preston say they are being penalised by the spread of bus lanes in the city – while their black cab counterparts can breeze through the restrictions.
They are speaking out after learning that a new ‘bus gate’ feature will be installed on Tithebarn Street when the road reopens in the coming weeks, having been shut since last May.
The new restriction comes just weeks after the installation of cameras to enforce a longstanding bus lane on a section of Fishergate between Glover’s Court and Canon Street
But Stephen Parkinson, who regularly takes passengers to and from the city centre in his private hire vehicle, claims he is being put at a disadvantage – along with the people who use his services.
“The elderly rely on us and we’re a lifeline service for them – they don’t like the black cabs because of the big step to get in and out and they’re frightened of falling on the bus if it moves off before they’ve sat down.
“Private hire cabs are good enough for the county council’s school transport contracts – then we’re a taxi, it seems, but not otherwise,” Stephen said.
Preston’s controversial bus lanes have generated more than £2m in fines since 2017 – but private hire drivers say they are more concerned about the inconvenience and cost to fairpayers.
“People are paying out more for us to go all the way round just to get to a place that we used to be able to drive straight to,” said another private cabbie, who did not want to be identified.
“We’re having to pick up our regulars firm different places since the cameras came on along that 220-yard stretch of Fishergate by Boots – and our elderly regulars are confused,” he explained.
Peter Bell, regulation and enforcement manager for Lancashire County Council, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the new Tithebarn Street restriction will initially be a six-month experiment, during which the public can submit their thoughts on how it is operating.
But he defended making a distinction between private hire and Hackney cabs.
“Private hire cars and black cabs are covered under different government legislation, which affects how they can operate. For example, private hire car journeys have to be pre-booked.
“This gives drivers the opportunity to plan an appropriate route and can consider suitable drop-off locations in advance.
“As with all of our bus lanes, clearly there can be some inconvenience to people’s car journeys, but it’s important to remember that the aim of bus lanes is to help people to get around using public transport and reduce congestion.
“Any new bus lanes are advertised locally to make people aware of them. Any objections or comments can be submitted to the council for consideration as part of the Traffic Order process,” Mr. Bell added.