Three Court of Appeal judges have said that a High Court judge’s ruling earlier this year that emergency measures undertaken by Transport for London (TfL) in response to the coronavirus pandemic were “seriously flawed” and “irrational” had no foundation, their criticisms contained in their full decision explaining why they last month upheld TfL’s appeal against the original judgment.
In January, Mrs Justice Lang found in favour of The United Trades Action Group (UTAG) and the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), which had sought a judicial review claiming that TfL’s Streetspace for London programme under which increased road space was given to cyclists and pedestrians, TfL guidance to boroughs including on low traffic neighbourhoods, and the closure of Bishopsgate were all unlawful.
In her decision, the judge said that TfL and the Mayor “took advantage of the pandemic” to enforce “radical changes” to London’s streets and that they “failed to distinguish taxis from ‘general traffic’,” disregarding “the distinct status of taxis as a form of public transport, reflected both in law and policy” and “the role played by taxis in facilitating accessible public transport for those with mobility impairments.”
She also said that the changes went “beyond what was reasonably required to meet the temporary challenges created by the pandemic.”
However, the Court of Appeal’s full decision, which has now been published, pulls her ruling apart, with the three judges saying that it was “extraordinary and not right” that the steps taken by TfL and the Mayor be described as “extreme or ill considered,” nor were there grounds to view them as “irrational.”
They said that Mrs Justice Lang “seems to have given no or almost no weight to the fact that the [decisions taken by TfL] were made on or by 15 May 2020 at a time when the duration and future course of the pandemic were wholly unpredictable.”
The judges also pointed out that each of the measures introduced “was in accordance with the policy not only of the Mayor and TfL but also of the Secretary of State for Transport of encouraging walking and cycling rather than other means of travel.
“They were not universally popular, but we think it would be extraordinary and not right for a court to condemn them as extreme or ill-considered, especially during the pandemic,” they said.
UTAG and the LTDA have been refused permission to appeal against the ruling, and have also been ordered to pay TfL’s costs, including paying £50,000 within 14 days.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.