In London, the licensed black taxi cabs are permitted to drive in bus lanes
whilst minicabs are not, except to pick up or set down pre-booked passengers.
One of the biggest private cab firms in London, Addison Lee, last year
challenged the bus lane rules. The case is currently before the UK's Court of
Appeal which referred to the EU's highest court the question of whether or not
the rules which allow black taxi cabs but not private hire vehicles (i.e.
minicabs) to drive in bus lanes, amounts to state aid. State aid involves a
benefit being conferred on a company via state resources resulting in a
distortion of competition, and is unlawful under EU law. Addison Lee's position
is that using the bus lane is a benefit conferred via state resources which
unlawfully distorts competition in favour of the black taxi cabs.
The EU court has now declared that permitting black cabs to use bus lanes,
while prohibiting minicabs from doing so, does not give rise to state aid.
In particular, a state does not confer economic advantage by granting a right
of access to public infrastructure which is not operated commercially to some
users of that infrastructure, in order to pursue an objective laid down by state
legislation (for example, ensuring a safe and efficient transport
In addition, black cabs are in a factual and legal position that
is distinct from minicabs, which means that their situations are not
comparable. It is only black cabs that are permitted to ply for hire, they are
subject to rules which mean that they must stop and pick up passengers if they
are available, drivers must set fares by reference to the taxi meter and must
have "The Knowledge".