‘Catching up seems inevitable’—government plans to modernise transport law

22 March 2019

The government has announced that it intends to explore regulations around new types of vehicles and modernise transport law. The Department of Transport (DoT) outlined its plans in a review ‘Future of mobility—urban transport’, published on 19 March 2019. The review aims to encourage innovation, efficiency and cost-effectiveness in UK transport links. Alastair Lewis, partner at Sharpe Pritchard specialising in public and transport law, discusses the scope of the review and suggests the best approach to implementing the proposed changes.

Scope of review

The review seeks to pave the way for transforming the way people and goods move around UK cities, and describes four areas of focus for regulatory review:

• micromobility vehicles, such as e-scooters and e-cargo bike trailers

• mobility as a service

• data sharing

• modernising bus, taxi and private hire vehicle legislation

Impact and considerations

The review says it will explore regulations around innovative types of vehicles, to which Lewis says ‘the government will obviously have to look very carefully at the safety implications, but this does seem to be one area of the law where some catching up seems inevitable’. Lewis points to the ‘clear growth’ in the use of micromobility vehicles—such as electric scooters and skateboards—but that inconsistency in the law regarding using these on roads is a problem. For example, electric bicycles can be used on roads lawfully while electric scooters cannot. To fix this, Lewis says, would ‘probably need not just changes to construction and use regulations, but also traffic regulation changes at a local and possibly national level as well’.

The review also proposes utilising data sharing to improve services and reduce congestion. Lewis says this and the objective of the review to see how journey planning and payment can be simplified ‘go hand in hand in some respects, with the government keen to improve joined up transport experiences for travellers’. When it comes to drafting legislation and guidance, Lewis advises the government to take ‘careful consideration about protecting the commercial interests of organisations who provide travel data services if the idea is to incentivise data sharing with transport service providers and local authorities’.

Finally, the review sets out an ambitious aim to modernise laws from the 1800s that the government considers are barring innovation. Lewis agrees that these areas of law need modernising and consolidating to increase their relevance and effectiveness:

‘There are different rules in different areas of the country about taxis and private hire vehicles, and some of it goes back to the days of stage carriages. The inevitable increase in the popularity of smart phone services like Uber has tested the law and local authority licensing departments lately. The Law Commission reported on the subject and published a draft Bill in 2014, and that report will no doubt assist the government in making a push for modernisation.’

Source: LexisNexis


This article is for general awareness only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this page was first published.

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