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Charlie Mullins: Why tradesmen should be allowed to use bus lanes


The outspoken entrepreneur wades into John Grffin’s war over bus lanes

I was fascinated to read about John Griffin, owner of minicab firm Addison Lee, and his bid to oust London’s black taxis from their privileged status as the only non-buses legally allowed in London’s bus lanes. 

Basically, Griffin wants to cut up the law that he says is anti-competitive and unfairly discriminates against his firm and thousands of its passengers. 

“Black taxis are not a public service, they are a business just like minicabs,” argues the mini-cab millionaire, and I can’t help agreeing with him. 

Why the hell should one business be allowed such a clearly unfair advantage over a competitor? 

Fact is, for 90 per cent of the time, 90 per cent of the space that has been reserved as bus (and black cab) lanes is empty. Hands up who’s sat fuming in a traffic jam next to an empty piece of road you dare not drive in for fear of a hefty fine?

It seems Griffin is determined to change lanes and is prepared to put his money where his mouth is, by promising to indemnify his drivers against any fines they might pick-up. 

And having managed to make the same manoeuvre in John Prescott’s infamous M4 bus lane a few years back, another row backed by EU freedom of supply rules would seem to be a good way to go.

And if it’s good enough for taxis, whatever their design or colour, why isn’t it good for us? Why on earth should a company be able to make money by receiving preferential treatment under the law just because of the industry it is in? 

With the seemingly ever increasing amount of road works digging up the roads we are allowed to use in London and everyday congestion – not to mention the terrifying thought of what getting to a job is going to be like during the Olympics – why shouldn’t registered trades be allowed to use the bus lanes too? Especially in off peak times when they are practically empty!

It seems to me there is no conceivable reason why not, and to those who consider taxis and busses a special case, I challenge them to answer me why. 

Why is it that when I’m suited and booted and on my way to a business meeting in the back of a cab, I am more important than say a heating engineer on the way to a suspected gas emergency, or a plumber who needs to get the water off before flooding destroys a family home? 

Being a little late for my meeting won’t be the end of the world whereas in the other two cases it could be. And I can always take the tube, something rather more difficult to do with a van load of tools!

Believe me, I’ll be watching this case very closely, and if John Griffin and Addison Lee come out on top in this one I think I might write to the Department of Transport to see if there’s anything they can do to help London’s vital tradesmen get around the capital more easily. 

It’s got to be worth the price of a 1st class stamp, whatever that is nowadays!

Read more from Charlie Mullins

Charlie Mullins started Pimlico Plumbers in the basement with just a second-hand van and a bag of tools in 1979. Today it’s become a family business that is now part of the Pimlico Group plc, covering all of London and completing more than 70,000 jobs a year. Mullins regularly appears on television and in the press, including Channel 4’s The Secret Millionaire.

Do you agree with Charlie? Leave your comments below