Addison Lee, the private hire taxi firm at the centre of an "cyclists should pay road tax" storm in April, and which wanted its distinctive black minicabs to gain access to London’s bus lanes, has lost its judicial review against Transport for London.
The court ordered Addison Lee to meet TfL’s costs in defending its claim.
Addison Lee had sought the judicial review of the policy allowing black cabs, but not minicabs, to use London’s bus lanes, a measure that horrified London’s cyclists.
Mr Justice Burton described the reasoning behind TfL’s policy as "obvious and compelling."
The judge said: "There is to my mind a clear distinction between the need of black cabs (and their passengers and the public) for them to be in the bus lanes, by way of visibility and availability of, and access to, black cabs for those hailing a cruising taxi."
"I consider it makes entire good sense for black cabs to be travelling in bus lanes.
"Minicabs just do not have the need to use the bus lane, and black cabs do."
Mr Justice Burton said he was "wholly unpersuaded" by Addison Lee’s claim that TfL’s bus lane policy affected the freedom of EU nationals to establish themselves as minicab drivers and concluded that "this has simply been the attempt to mount a challenge to a London traffic regulation by turning it into a ‘"Euro-point"."
Alistair Laycock, PR and marketing manager for Addison Lee, told BikeBiz the company would be appealing the decision and is prepared to take the matter "to Europe."
The company has recently hired Ogilvy as its PR consultancy.
Laycock said Addison Lee has long advocated the use of bus lanes for other taxi providers and was disappointed by the judgement, calling it "anti-competitive and unjust".
Addison Lee Chairman John Griffin said:
"We are extremely disappointed with today’s judgement. The current bus lane legislation is anti-competitive and unfairly discriminates against millions of Londoners who use private hire vehicles every day.
"There is no reason for black taxis to have a monopoly on bus lanes: we should either all be in or all be out."
Griffin added that the battle with TfL was far from over: "We still believe that the current legislation is a breach of the EU and UK law. You can’t discriminate between two types of taxis and we will continue to fight this injustice."
Addison Lee said it was accepted by the judge and not disputed by TfL that the bus lane regulations were discriminatory and provided a competitive advantage to black cabs. However, TfL argued that the regulations did not engage EU law, that TfL had a broad discretion in deciding how to manage the bus lanes to mitigate congestion and that it had acted reasonably in discriminating against minicabs.
Laycock said: "Whether or not black cabs deserve to be in the bus lanes is irrelevant. What matters is whether TfL can justify minicabs being excluded."