A PLEA from private hire taxi drivers to be allowed to use bus lanes was knocked back.

A group representing drivers across the borough petitioned Blackburn with Darwen Council asking for permission to use the bus lanes.

The petition also asked the council to consider creating passenger pick-up and drop-off points for private hire drivers.

They want similar privileges to Hackney carriage drivers who can use bus lanes to boost trade by cutting time spent in traffic jams.

Council bosses say they considered carefully the restrictions relating to the bus lanes as part of the Pennine Reach £40m major transport scheme, funded by the council and the Department for Transport.

But as it is a Department for Transport scheme, rules state major changes cannot be made for up to 10 years.

A spokesman for private hire drivers said: “We would like you to allow taxis to use the bus lanes and consider taxis as a form of public transport.

“It is very noticeable that the lanes are empty for the majority of time with so few buses.

“By allowing the taxi trade to use bus lanes it would allow customers a better incentive and an alternative to using their own cars. It would also encourage sharing for common journeys.

“The taxi trade is targeted by over-zealous traffic wardens.

“In many instances we are transporting older people or people who can’t drive or use buses. Surely this is an important service to the council as it brings trade into the town and also helps prevent older people becoming housebound or isolated.”

The petition also asked for the council to work closely with drivers and operators to protect the public.

The spokesman added: “There have been many negative stories from other towns. We want to ensure the taxi trade in Blackburn with Darwen is seen as a reliable, trusted and safe trade. One which customers are confident in using where we give the best service.

“In order for us to do this we believe the council has to start to work with the trade.”

Principal licensing officer Donna Riding said: “In terms of bus lane effectiveness there has to be a balance drawn between allowing additional vehicles to use the bus lanes and the benefits derived for the purpose they were intended for.

“The larger the number of vehicles allowed in, the lower the lane’s effectiveness for buses, which can carry significantly higher numbers of passengers per vehicle than motor cars.

“ The usage of bus lanes does vary according to peak demands, time of day and geographic location, but are not underused as suggested.

“There is also an issue relating to the design of traffic light signals systems where virtual bus gates are in operation. The signals system at these lights look at the length of vehicles and will not fire traffic lights where there is a bus gate, which would present problems. The taxi forum is the arena where all these ideas can be discussed.

“In response to the requests made in the petition, safeguarding awareness training is currently provided to all new drivers and was delivered to all existing drivers last year.

“We are awaiting national guidance that is being drafted in relation to council run in-car CCTV systems.

“Once this is issued it will be brought back to the taxi forum for discussion. Most operators in the borough are using GPS tracking systems.”