Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill: Transport: Permits abolished but lorry ban stays in force

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THE LONDON lorry ban escaped abolition in the Deregulation Bill but the obligation on goods vehicle operators to apply for permits to drive in London at night and at weekends has been removed.

The Department of Transport emphasised that the ending of permits did not mean any relaxation of the terms of the ban.

'Lorries will still be banned from the same streets at the same times as before,' a spokeswoman said.

The ban prevents all goods vehicles over 16.5 tonnes entering Greater London between 9pm and 7am on weekdays and between noon Saturday and 7am on Mondays. Trunk roads and a few other roads are exempt.

Currently, operators have to apply for permits. Stephen Norris, the minister for transport in London, said: 'Our objective is certainly not to abolish the lorry ban. We need to strengthen it by cutting out wasteful red tape and bureaucracy.'

However, Stephen Joseph of the lobbying group Transport 2000, said: 'Abolishing the permits will make the ban unenforceable. There will be a lot more lorries using residential streets in London.'

He said many lorries stopped for not having permits were also committing other offences.

The other measure affecting lorry transport is the abolition of the requirement for HGV operators to renew their licences every five years.

Instead, a licence will continue for ever unless there are changes in the operator's situation or they breach the rules governing the licences, which are to remain the same.

The Department of Transport insisted that regular checks on operators would still be carried out.

John Gutteridge, spokesman for the Freight Transport Association, said: 'This is very good news for freight operators.' He said it would remove a major administrative headache from them.

However, he was disappointed about the continuation of the London lorry ban.

'We would have liked more streets to be opened up to lorries in London during the hours of the ban,' he said.