Greens vow to keep fighting to keep private taxis out of bus lanes after council bid fails

A decision by Belfast City Council not to stand in the way of private hire taxis using bus lanes will be “challenged”, a Green Party councillor has said.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 5:24 pm
Only buses and public-hire taxis are allowed to use Belfast’s bus lanes at present

The Department for Infrastructure at Stormont has been planning to allow private-hire taxis to use the bus lanes as part of a trial.

At present, only public-hire taxis can use the bus lanes.

The trial has faced long delays due to the coronavirus pandemic and, on Tuesday, councillors from the DUP and Sinn Fein combined to vote down a motion calling for the city council to oppose the plans.

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While the decision will be ultimately taken at Stormont on whether to proceed with the trial, Green Party councillor Aine Groogan said she will continue to challenge the council’s position.

In a statement to the News Letter after her motion was voted down, she said: “Ultimately, the minister for infrastructure will make the decision, but this is a very poor signal from Belfast City Council I fully intend to challenge this and keep working to change it.

“Flooding bus lanes with over eight thousand private taxis would have a serious negative impact on public transport efficiency.”

She continued: “This policy is not supported by Translink, Unite the Union or any organisation working toward sustainable public transport. With over 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in Belfast coming from transport emissions, it also runs the risk of negatively impacting our ambition for a carbon neutral city.”

DUP councillor Brian Kingston, however, defended his party’s decision to vote down the motion.

Mr Kingston said: “First of all it’s not our decision [to allow private-hire taxis into the bus lanes], it’s a decision for the Department for Infrastructure.

“We don’t think allowing taxis into bus lanes will make any major difference to the efficiency of the bus lanes.

“We believe it will reduce congestion in the rest of the lanes and won’t make a major difference to the bus lanes.

“We recognise that taxis are a legitimate form of public transport, even if they are private hire, used by many people for many reasons.”

He added: “Taxi drivers are one of the sectors which have been most impacted by the pandemic.

“Anything which helps them as part of the recovery is good, and they are definitely one of the sectors which has been hit very hard.”