By Ninder Kaur
A private hire driver has taken a 946-name petition to Leeds City Council calling for all private hire vehicles to have access to bus lanes.
Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) want to be able to use the bus-only zones around Leeds city centre without incurring any fines.
Under current city council rules, the 537 Hackney carriages are the only vehicles allowed to drive in the city’s bus lanes, leaving the remaining 3,739 PHV drivers to take the longer route round.
Leader of the petition, Mohammed Sajaad has been a private hire driver for 9 years and is campaigning for equal treatment for all cab drivers.
He said: “The reason we are doing this is because PHVs are doing the same job as Hackney Carriages. We are only asking for equality and to be treated the same as everyone else. We understand that there are more PHVs but they’re working at various times throughout the day and will not be on the road simultaneously in any given area. ”
The main motives behind the petition are that there is a misconception that PHV drivers are taking the public a longer route, costing them more time and money. This is causing a detrimental effect on PHVs.
The 36 year old who works for Yeadon-based SJK was joined by other taxi companies in a bid to get the rules changed. The thoroughly written petition which started six months ago, and argues both sides of the case was finally handed in to Civic Hall on Tuesday 28th January.
“It has taken a long time to get the collect all the signatures, so it was a little bit disheartening that no official was available or willing to come down to formally receive the petition. I had rang up the day before and told the Council I was coming,” said Mohammed.
Despite the absence of an official member receiving the petition, Mohammed hopes that his efforts will help solve the injustice. “The struggle has just begun and I assure you this matter will not be laid to rest until an amicable and fair solution is reached.”
Nazakat Ali who works for Wheels was also present at the handing over of the petition. He said: “We are all doing the same job but we are the ones that are suffering. It should be the same rules for everybody. Hackney carriages don’t even pay additional charges to use the bus lanes, so why can’t it be the same for everybody?”
John Askham, of the Leeds Private Hire Drivers Association hopes that the city’s authority will seriously consider their proposal. “We provide a service to get our customers from A to B as quickly as possible. There has been an injustice for too long. There are other cities that are allowing private hire drivers to use bus lanes, we are lagging behind the times,” he said.
A spokesperson for Leeds City Council said: “Whilst both Private Hire Vehicles and Hackney Carriage vehicles play an important role within Leeds, it is recognised that Hackney Carriages fulfil a particular role for the public in providing a door to door service available on the street.”
“The possibility of using private hire vehicles to use bus lanes has been previously investigated by the council. With over 4,000 private hire vehicles registered in Leeds it would have a significant detrimental impact. Therefore, the use of bus lanes by other vehicles should be kept to a minimum, to avoid causing delays and obstruction to bus services.”
Now that Leeds PHV drivers have expressed their concern for bus lane use, it could mean that neighbouring cities may follow in their footsteps.
A spokesperson for Bradford City Council said: “Bradford Councils have legal orders in place that do not allow private hire vehicles to use the bus lanes, in accordance with Department of Transport (DfT) guidance.”
“In terms of safety, they want to limit cross movements between bus lanes and general traffic lanes as far as possible. Private hire vehicles are not easy to distinguish from normal cars which could lead to more private motorists abusing the bus lanes. In view of the Government’s guidance, we therefore wouldn’t support exemptions for private hire vehicles to use bus lanes.”