A Belfast Telegraph report revealing that thousands more taxis than expected could be about to flood Belfast's bus lanes has sparked questions at Stormont.
The regional development committee is to raise questions with Transport Minister Danny Kennedy after we broke the story that as many as 4,500 taxis could be allowed into the city's bus lanes – not 2,000 as widely believed.
At a sitting of the committee, Ukip MLA David McNarry paid tribute to the Telegraph investigation that revealed thousands of 'out-of-town' white plate taxis may not have been taken into account by the consultation looking at whether minicabs should be allowed to use bus lanes. We carried out an hour-long survey in Donegall Street that revealed the vast majority of taxis using the road were white-plate taxis, based outside Belfast.
"What caught my eye was the high number of white-plate taxis that were recorded," Mr McNarry told committee members. "In view of this, could we ask the minister, would they be considering permitting white-plated taxis to go into bus lanes? If not, I fear we're going to have substantial congestion."
The committee agreed to ask the department for its views.
Steven Patterson, director of sustainable transport charity Sustrans, said he has already made the minister aware of what he believes to be the true number of taxis poised to flood bus lanes, regarded by cyclists as safer space.
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With an upcoming change in taxi licensing to a single tier system, DRD has been reviewing its regulations on the use of bus lanes by taxis. Currently, only Belfast public hire taxis and taxibuses can use bus lanes, which are shared with cyclists. DRD issued a consultation on proposals to allow all taxis to use the lanes and last week the Belfast Telegraph highlighted fears that chaos would result.