Big fellow taxi

Shaun McCarthy

July 18, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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Taxis in Parliament Square

London cabbies are revolting

Walking past the Houses of Parliament yesterday I was surprised to see the traffic even more motionless than usual and a group of burly taxi drivers standing around in the street with their cabs idle. Assuming there to be an incident at Parliament Square I realised it was in fact the cabbies themselves causing the gridlock. They were protesting about lack of access to the 35Km of exclusive lanes of the Olympic Route Network.

LOCOG would no doubt argue that the ORN is for vehicles transporting people and things that are essential to the Games operation. For example, you won’t see much football at Wembley if the referee and linesmen (or “referee’s assistants” as they are known these days) are stuck in the crowd on the Jubilee Line. Taxis could be seen as adding to the problem. There is even an argument related to inclusion. Why should people who can afford a taxi be whisked along the lanes while other poor sods have to make do with lesser forms of transport?

On the other hand, London’s taxis and their drivers have a special place in the affections of the world. Their vehicles are unique and part of the iconic nature of our great city. I travel round the world a bit and I talk to people who travel a lot. Most agree that London cabbies are the best in the world at what they do – I hope we never see the day when GPS navigation systems completely replace The Knowledge! The drivers’ reputation for having an opinion on everything has entertained generations of visitors to our city.

Transport for London’s biggest source of air emissions is from taxis and private hire vehicles. They do not operate them but they are responsible for licensing them. A taxi idling in traffic is a dangerous thing for children and anybody with a respiratory disorder. Keeping them moving does not wholly solve the problem but it does make a difference.

You can feel the atmosphere in London building up to the Games and LOCOG is under great pressure with controversies about issues of security, lost bus drivers and many other things. Giving a concession to London’s black cabs would not stop the Games and it would cost nothing. London cabbies can be a stroppy bunch at times but my personal opinion is that LOCOG should lighten up and let them use the lanes.

Shaun McCarthy

July 2012

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