The Department for Infrastructure has scrapped the planned year long experiment to allow 4,500 private taxis into Belfast bus lanes.
Hundreds of objections to the policy were raised in a joint effort by Unite the Union and Bikefast earlier this summer.
Following the release of a critical statement this morning from West Belfast MP Paul Maskey – who had attended the controversial meeting with former Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard in January 2017 which saw Departmental policy turn on a sixpence – the Department confirmed in a tweet that the experiment would not be proceeding.
UPDATE – taxis in bus lanes pic.twitter.com/rWorWjrHB7
— Dept Infrastructure (@deptinfra) August 29, 2018
“The Department recently consulted on an Experimental Traffic control scheme that allowed Class A taxis (private hire) to use Belfast bus lanes for a period of 12 months. The Department has considered all representations received.
“However, the recent Buick Judicial Review judgment clarified the position regarding the decisions civil servants can and cannot take in the absence of Ministers. It is that judgment which has led the Department to defer the decision on the introduction of this experimental scheme.
“The outcome of the recent consultation and the rationale for an experimental scheme will be put to an incoming Minister for Infrastructure.
“Therefore, taxi access to bus lanes is limited to Class B (Wheelchair accessible) and Class D (taxibus) taxis. Bus lanes can also be used by all buses, bicycles, motorcycles and the emergency services.”
The Northern Ireland Assembly has been dissolved since January 2017 – a world record length of time – with no immediate prospect of return.
It might only be a temporary reprieve, but it’s cause for celebration as sustainable transport gets the protection it needs to thrive in Belfast.
There are so many people to thank. First up, the Department for Infrastructure bods who saw sense on this (whatever the reason given). The Department, as a corporate entity, gets a hard time from people connected with Bikefast but there are many smart folk with their heads screwed on and their hearts in the right place over there.
Unite the Union led this phase of the campaign with clarity and focus, bringing the concerns of Translink workers and tens of thousands of bus passengers to the fore.
The All Party Group on Cycling who led a delegation to meet Peter May earlier this year to discuss the taxis in bus lanes issue – including MLAs Chris Lyttle (ALL), Claire Hanna (SDLP) and Philip McGuigan (SF) – and other representatives from Sinn Féin and the Green Party.
Sustrans as always has been at the forefront of this drive to protect and promote sustainable transport in Belfast, and the support from Cycling UK has been invaluable.
But to everyone and anyone who signed the petition, emailed a formal objection, and shared those two key tools to friends and family, you made the difference. Whatever the exact reasoning the Department settled upon, you were the hurdle over which they could not leap.
More than 2,000 people have signed a petition of objection to raise awareness – you can still do this, but your emailed objection is the ONLY thing which will count (should @deptinfra treat this consultation process with the fairness & gravity it requires) https://t.co/QqufR4eQEA
— NI Greenways (@nigreenways) July 6, 2018
This isn’t finished, but Glider will get a fair run and cycling will stay relatively sedate in Belfast until we progress the city’s cycling network plan. For six years we’ve held this line, and we’ll be ready to fight the next round when it comes..