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Londoners could be hailing ‘le taxi’

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Londoners could be hailing ‘le taxi’

Post by Admin on Tue 25 Aug 2009 - 11:15

Londoners could be hailing ‘le taxi’
David Williams
Black cabs could soon have a French rival on the streets of the capital following a landmark legal ruling.
The Peugeot E7 people carrier is barred from use as a taxi in London and Liverpool because its turning circle fails to meet guidelines.

But Allied Vehicles, which sells the car in Britain, has won a court battle against the restrictions and is calling on London transport bosses to allow it to introduce the vehicles.

The Peugeot, unlike the Hackney Carriage, cannot turn between pavements 28 feet apart, a condition cars must meet to prove they can manoeuvre in narrow streets. Its failure to do so meant authorities including London and Liverpool refused to license it.

Allied Vehicles challenged Liverpool city council's decision, claiming it contradicted EU free-trade laws by restricting the Peugeot's use and sale. They also claimed it discriminated against the disabled because the seven-seater has access ramps for wheelchair users.

The High Court ordered the council to reconsider licensing the Peugeot for taxi use. Allied Vehicles says the judgment should also cover London and wants the capital's taxi market opened to all vehicles. Most local authorities allow the Peugeot.

A spokesman for the company said: "The High Court judgment now looks set to sweep away the turning circle requirement for good."

Transport for London said it could not make a decision until it had received the High Court's final judgment in writing, which is expected next week. Liverpool council could also appeal against the ruling.

A TfL spokesman said: "Due to the nature of London's narrow streets, the small turning circle of London's black cabs are a vital requirement which help drivers, passengers and other road users by preventing unnecessary hold-ups on the roads and helps drivers deliver the world-class service for which they are famed.

"TfL remains committed to ensuring wheelchair users have comprehensive, equal access to all transport modes and continue to work with the taxi and private hire trade to achieve this aim. We shall have our lawyers look at the ruling before making our decision."

Allied Vehicles has been fighting for a slice of the London cab market since 2001 and in 2005 called on TfL to review its taxi Conditions of Fitness.

However, TfL decided the 28ft rule was still needed and refused to back down. It said cab drivers carried out 50million U-turns and 90million other tight turns made possible by the turning circle each year. Other vehicles attempting these could cause delays or accidents by shunting backwards and forwards.

Gerry Facenna, chairman of Allied Vehicles, was optimistic of a change in the rules in London. "All we are seeking is freedom of choice and the right to compete on a level playing field. It seems ridiculous that we've had to go all the way to the High Court to fight our way through red tape but hopefully the end is now in sight," he said.

London has one of the world's largest taxi fleets, with more than 1,000 cab sales each year, worth an estimated £35million.

Bob Oddy, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said: "All London's 25,000 taxi drivers are self-employed. If a wider choice of taxi becomes available, it will be up to each individual driver to decide which vehicle to operate."

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