Belfast City Council votes in favour of taxis in bus lanes
Belfast City Councillors have passed a motion in favour of permitting all taxis to use bus lanes for an additional six months.
In a display of party unity, the motion was proposed by Sinn Féin and seconded by the DUP and was passed almost unanimously with only one vote against.
The passing of the council motion comes after Nigel Dodds, Alasdair McDonnell, Gavin Robinson and Paul Maskey all put their name to letters of support to Department for Infrastructure Permanent Secretary Peter May supporting the campaign to keep taxis in bus lanes for an extended period.
The council will now write an official letter of support to the Department for Infrastructure to this effect.
Belfast taxi group member William McCausland described the passing of the motion as "hugely significant".
Mr McCausland said: "I welcome tonight's vote by Belfast City Council to give their official support to our campaign objective to have the current trial period allowing all taxis into bus lanes extended and also expanded out to include all Belfast bus lanes.
"This is hugely significant. The current trial allowing taxis into bus lanes has been a massive success with no detrimental effect at all. Allowing taxis into bus lanes means taxi customers are getting their taxi sooner, reaching their destination quicker and paying less for their fare.
"Taxis in bus lanes works for all road users and the trial is showing this every day. The positive impact this has had on the livelihoods of taxi drivers right across Belfast cannot be stressed enough. Our group is made up of drivers from north, south, east and west Belfast and from all communities. The drivers are united behind this campaign.
"Today we delivered thousands of signed letters from taxi drivers to Department for Infrastructure Permanent Secretary Peter May in support of extending the trial period. We also delivered thousands of signed postcards from members of the public in support of the taxi drivers. Allowing taxis into all Belfast bus lanes is protecting taxi driver’s jobs.
"The move by the Department for Infrastructure to put taxis back out of the bus lanes will damage the taxi industry and be a disaster for drivers leading to job losses, particularly now that the 12 hour bus lanes have begun to be phased in. All taxis are permitted to use bus lanes in many cities across Britain and Ireland.
"We believe this should also apply to Belfast. It is the normal, common sense position to take. We now ask the Department for Infrastructure to recognise the clear public and political support for the taxi drivers and move as a matter of urgency to build on the success of the trial period and reverse their decision to end the trial period on 15th May."
Sinn Fein's Paul Maskey welcomed the council's backing for the motion.
Mr Maskey said: "Tonight’s motion in support of allowing taxis into bus lanes and requesting council backing for the extension and expansion of the trial period was brought forward by Sinn Fein who have been working closely with taxi drivers in West Belfast.
"There have been major concerns raised by taxi drivers about the damage being caused to their industry and their livelihoods by not being able to use bus lanes. These concerns have intensified recently with the beginning of the phasing in of 12-hour bus lanes.
"If the Department for Infrastructure doesn't reverse their decision and extend the trial period, taxis will be out of the bus lanes next week and there is a real worry that they will be badly affected by this.
"The trial period allowing taxis into bus lanes has been positively received in west Belfast. This issue affects thousands of working-class taxi drivers and Sinn Fein will continue to work with taxi drivers to ensure they can use bus lanes."
The text of the successful motion read: "This council supports the decision by the Department for Infrastructure to introduce the twelve week trial period permitting all taxis to use the Belfast Rapid Transit bus lanes and requests this council to write to the Department for Infrastructure a letter of support to extend the duration of the trial period for an additional six months and expand the trial to include all Belfast bus lanes."