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Decision on private taxis using Belfast bus lanes kicked into long grass

Up to new minister to decide, says department

By Jonny Bell

The decision on allowing private hire taxis to use Belfast bus lanes will be taken by the next roads minster, the Department for Infrastructure has said.

A 12-week trial allowing Class A taxis - those saloon private hire cars - ends on Sunday. From Monday only black public hire taxis and wheelchair accessible taxis will be allowed to use the bus lanes, along with buses, cyclists and motorbikes as was the case in the past.

Officials are now collating the information gained over the past 12 weeks on how more vehicles in the bus lanes impacted travel.

Read more: Poll: Belfast taxi drivers want bus lane use to be permanent - do you agree?

There has been mixed views on the matter. Sustainable transport charity, Sustrans, said allowing the private hire firms to use the lanes was "not a substitute for an efficient public transport system". Cycling campaigners have also raised safety concerns.

While a taxi lobby group fronted by Fona Cab owner William McCausland has been arguing for the trial to be made permanent saying it will cut journey times and fares for their customers.

A Department for Infrastructure said: "The Department will assess all the information gathered, including any views received, and present it to the next Minister in order for a decision to be made on long term access for taxis in bus lanes."

The public can continue to have their say on the matter here.

Talks on reforming an Executive at Stormont have been paused to allow for the General Election on June 8. Following that the parties will reconvene to hammer out an agreement ahead of the Secretary of State's latest deadline of the end of June.

With direct rule looming, some have speculated that there will be no Northern Ireland government for the rest of the year.

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