Centaur sees appeal against London Service Permit variation refusal dismissed

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Tribunal upholds TfL decision which finds public interest argument more compelling

An appeal from Centaur Overland Travel Ltd against a decision by Transport for London (TfL) to refuse it a London Service Permit has been dismissed.

Centaur had applied to vary its permit in order to use Abbott Road during the afternoon peak period, as an alternative approach to the Blackwall Tunnel due to heavy congestion on East India Dock Road. Abbott road was seen to be relatively clear at this time, and the operator said it only expected five out of seven trips through the Blackwall Tunnel to use the road – sometimes none on days when congestion was not bad.

However, TfL refused the application, as the London Borough Tower Hamlets had said it wanted to discourage non-essential through traffic as part of a programme of investment to deliver the Mayor of London’s transport strategy locally. It said that while the variation could have a positive commercial impact on Centaur’s business, there was a ‘more compelling’ public interest argument for refusing the application, as it said the road is in a residential area.

The appeal of the decision was the first case of its kind to be heard by the Tribunal, arising under section 189 of the Greater London Authority Act of 1999. The operator disputed that road qualified as a residential street and said that Tower Hamlets allowed over road users to use Abbott Road as a ‘rat run’ to bypass the normal routes to the tunnel. It argued that enabling coaches to use Abbott road would comply with the mayors transport strategy by helping to smooth traffic flow. The operator added that using the road saved on average 10 minutes of idling in the locality, reducing emissions.

However, the tribunal said there was no doubt the area was primarily residential in character and that while the coaches may reduce car traffic, the larger vehicles would cause more disturbance to residents. They also said that granting the variation would likely result in a similar variation being given to over operators, which weakened Centaur’s argument that only a proportion of their coaches would use the Abbott Road. The appeal was therefore dismissed.