Private Hire Vehicles can use some bus lanes – should they be allowed to use all of them?

Above street view with black taxi cab vehicle in traffic jam at Waterloo train station with people

Bus lanes are designed to move a large number of people through traffic quickly and they work because there are fewer vehicles operating in a designated space. As well as buses, public hire taxis, motorcyclists and cyclists are also allowed to use bus lanes in a bid to reduce congestion and encourage sustainable forms of transport.

Rules on who can use bus lanes are determined by local authorities. Private hire vehicles are usually excluded, along with cars, vans and other vehicles, and drivers face fines for breaking the rules.


There are different types of bus lanes – some are permanent while others operate between set times – and whatever the hours of operation, there are plenty of cameras waiting to catch out offenders.

Fines for using bus lanes range between authorities, with drivers being hit with fixed-penalty notices ranging from £60 to more than £100. Whether drivers deliberately or accidentally flout the regulations, the FPNs are bringing in eye-watering sums.

In Manchester, one bus lane generated more than £10 million worth of fines in 17 months.

The BBC discovered that thousands of drivers have been fined for using the Oxford Road bus gate, which is only open to buses, public hire taxis and cyclists from 6am to 9pm.

Since 2020, a total of 182,707 fines have been issued. From April, 2022, to September 2023, the council collected an incredible £10,241,545.13 in fines.


There is a different situation in Reading, where PHV drivers have been campaigning to use a bus lane out of the town centre – having already been allowed to use the bus lane heading in the other direction for several years.

The Reading Chronicle reports that their drive to use the King’s Road bus lane heading out of the town centre – which is currently only used by buses, public hire taxis, motorbikes and cyclists – is moving a step closer.

An informal consultation found that most people were in favour of the change.

Speaking at the council meeting, Reading Private Hire Association chairman Kamran Saddiq said: “The bus lane is flowing freely. The inbound bus lane was given to us over 11 years ago, it’s been absolutely going fine.

“Great credit to the buses, they are doing absolutely fantastic, we’ve never stepped in their way, we don’t intend to, we want that flow to continue.”


But the council heard there were concerns about how the bus lane will be enforced.

Reading Taxi Association chairman Asif Rahid, who represents Hackney carriage drivers, said: “One of the issues is that not all of the private hire cars licensed by the council have plates or have roof signs, they are executive vehicles, they look no different from a normal car.

“Joe Bloggs, sitting in that traffic, will see that Mercedes and think ‘I have that car, I can use it’, the potential is there.

“From day one there needs to be enforcement.”

The council’s traffic management sub-committee unanimously agreed to launch a statutory consultation into the change. Depending on the results of the consultation, the council’s highways team will need to identify funding and make changes to signage to reflect the change.

Will letting PHVs into bus lanes improve traffic?

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