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Should Private Hire Vehicles be allowed to use bus lanes?

Bus lane, Manchester New Road, Middleton, Manchester.

As one authority moves towards letting private hire drivers use a bus lane on a busy route, we look at why they aren’t allowed to use them in the first place, and what happens to drivers who ignore the rules.

Access to bus lanes is decided by each local authority and it is usually only buses, public hire taxis, cyclists and motorcyclists can use them. Some are permanent bus lanes while others are only operational from set times, such as morning and evening rush hours, or throughout the day. In these instances, the lanes have to be marked with the operational times clearly visible.

Traffic flow

PHVs – whose private hire insurance is only valid when they are booked in advance – are usually not allowed to use bus lanes. This is because the aim of bus lanes is to improve public transport, reduce congestion and encourage sustainable travel.

The fact that PHVs greatly outnumber taxis in every UK authority raises concerns that bus lanes would become clogged by the sheer volume of vehicles using them if they were allowed in.

Fines for using bus lanes range between authorities, but the use of bus lane cameras means offenders are lucky to avoid being caught. In fact, in Manchester, one bus lane generated more than £10 million worth of fines in 17 months.

The BBC discovered that thousands of drivers have been fined for using the Oxford Road bus gate in which parts of the road are only open to buses, black cabs and pedal cycles from 6am to 9pm.

The BBC reported that since the beginning of 2020, a total of 182,707 fines have been issued and from April, 2022, to September 2023, the council collected £10,241,545.13 in revenue.


While the situation in Manchester is unlikely to change, in Reading, PHV drivers’ long-running campaign to use a bus lane out of the town centre has moved a step closer.

The Reading Chronicle reports that the King’s Road bus lane heading out of the town centre is currently only used by buses, minicabs, motorbikes and cyclists.

PHV drivers are not allowed to use the bus lane, even though they have been allowed to use the King’s Road bus lane heading into the town centre for several years.

Following calls from PHV drivers, the council held an informal consultation into letting PHVs use the outbound bus lane as well.

Of the 1,221 who participated, 1,150 were in favour of the move, with 71 objections.

Speaking at the meeting, Reading Private Hire Association chairman Kamran Saddiq said: “The bus lane is flowing freely. The inbound bus lane was given to us over 11 years ago, it’s been absolutely going fine.

“Great credit to the buses, they are doing absolutely fantastic, we’ve never stepped in their way, we don’t intend to, we want that flow to continue.”

But the council heard there were concerns about how the bus lane will be enforced.

Reading Taxi Association chairman Asif Rahid, who represents Hackney carriage drivers, said: “All the out-of-borough hackney carriages that use the bus lanes are easily identifiable.

“But one of the issues is that not all of the private hire cars licensed by the council have plates or have roof signs, they are executive vehicles, they look no different from a normal car.

“Joe Bloggs, sitting in that traffic, will see that Mercedes and think ‘I have that car, I can use it’, the potential is there.

“From day one there needs to be enforcement.”

The council’s traffic management sub-committee unanimously agreed to launch a statutory consultation into the change. Depending on the results of the consultation, the council’s highways team will need to identify funding and make changes to signage to reflect the change.

What do you think about the plans?

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