A taxi driver says bus lane regulations in South Tyneside are driving him round the bend – as he appeals for a ‘level playing field’.
Ken Mitchell, from South Shields, claims some taxi drivers who drive eight-passenger minibuses have successfully appealed fines for entering bus lanes in the borough.
As a driver of a minibus himself, though, Mr Mitchell, 64, says he is unable to drive through bus lanes as his vehicle – which seats eight passengers – is classed as a van by the DVLA.
South Tyneside Council says that government legislation defines a bus to be a vehicle that carries nine passengers or more.
Central Taxis worker Mr Mitchell’s attempts at changing the status of his vehicle to a minibus have been unsuccessful, which he says leaves him at an unfair disadvantage with other taxi drivers.
Mr Mitchell, who has been driving taxis for 42 years, said: “I know of several taxi drivers who have gone though bus lanes in their minibuses and successfully appealed the fine they received.
It has to be a level playing fieldKen Mitchell
“It’s because they have ‘minibus’ on their logbook, but I tried to get the status of my vehicle changed with the DVLA and they said it can’t be classed as a minibus unless it has nine passenger seats and a driver’s seat.
“My point is that I may have to do a big detour to avoid a bus lane, whereas another taxi driver with a very similar vehicle is able to go through it.
“It might make a difference of about £2 to the fare, and the passengers obviously won’t be happy.
“You can’t have one rule for one and one for another driver with the same vehicle.
“It has to be a level playing field.”
Mr Mitchell says the main issues he has encountered in South Tyneside have been at the bus lanes in Edinburgh Road, on the Scotch Estate, Jarrow, and near South Shields Town Hall.
He has now called on council bosses to clarify the situation.
Mr Mitchell added: “I just want some clarification on it all, because it’s not fair.
“It should either be the case that all drivers of eight-seat minibuses can drive through the bus lanes, or none of them.”
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “The bus gates within South Tyneside are currently for bus and cycles only.
“The legislation published by the government defines a bus to be a vehicle that carries nine passengers or more.
“While we can’t comment on individual cases, if the driver of a vehicle that has been detected in the bus gate has proven that their vehicle can carry nine passengers or more, then it is likely that their representation may be accepted.
“I’d like to reassure everyone that everyone is treated fairly and in accordance with which vehicle types are permitted to use bus gates.”