Over the past few months London taxi drivers have been arguing with Transport for London (TfL) over the fact that there is no taxi rank outside The Shard. Since construction of The Shard completed in March 2012 thousands of tourists have flocked to the mammoth skyscraper in order to scale the eighty seven storeys and see a breath-taking view of the capital. This means that taxi drivers could make a good living taking and picking up tourists from the skyscraper, however this is not currently possible.
This is why on the 6th of May taxi drivers held a protest throughout Southwark and disrupted the opening on the Shangri La hotel based in The Shard. Even though there is a taxi rank 150 yards away from The Shard and the Shangri La hotel, taxi drivers claim that there should be one directly outside the building in order to facilitate the needs of customers and improve their businesses. In a statement, Steve McNamara from the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association said: “Taxi rank provision is an essential provision, which also contributes to cutting pollution and congestion.
“The appointment of ranks on TfL roads is becoming an increasingly difficult, bureaucratic process, with the taxi trades interests receiving little consideration within the wider TfL structures. Events at the Shard have brought this to a head. The problem at The Shangri La Hotel is not the hotel management but the lack of an effective properly resourced strategy on rank provision at the highest level of TfL.” However, Garrett Emmerson, TfL’s Chief Operating Officer for Surface Transport, said: “We are aware of the taxis trade’s desire to have a rank closer to The Shard and have recently reached an agreement with the owners of The Shard that will enable a single taxi to rank directly outside the building.
“In addition a ‘taxi required’ light has been installed enabling The Shard’s concierge to signal taxi drivers on the nearby St Thomas Street rank to come forward and collect passengers. In the longer term we are working to provide a full taxi rank, and are seeking to identify a suitable, safe location that is convenient for both taxi drivers and their passengers. There is no need to stage a demonstration and doing so will only disrupt the travelling public, the very people that the taxi trade are supposed to serve.”
Those that worked in Southwark near the protest also voiced their annoyance at the protest, with many finding the constant beeping and stand-still traffic disruptive. Andrew Murgatroyd, who works in the area, tweeted: “If you stop beeping outside our office, I will stick a sign on the Shard saying ‘Get a bloody taxi.’” Meanwhile, Richard Newcome, who was also in Southwark at the time, wrote: “Cabbies on strike about not being allowed to serve the shard. Roads blocked. Horns beeping. Chaos ensues.”
Taxi drivers who attended the protest also voiced their anger over the fact that Uber is being used in London even though it is claimed that their drivers are operating illegally and therefore don’t have valid taxi insurance policies. Many have called upon the Mayor of London Boris to ban the use of the App as well as reduce the amount of red tape created by TfL, however during an interview with the radio station LBC the Mayor said: “What we are doing with UBER is we are looking at how it works.
“This is UBER by the way, for listeners who don’t understand what UBER is, UBER is some American company that wants to come here and is already trying to establish itself and is basically, it’s a bit like Halo but somehow different in some way that I don’t frankly understand at the moment. We are looking at it, we are not yet in a position to give a final verdict on UBER but I would urge everybody to take a London taxi, I haven’t taken one for ages myself and I’m feeling guilty, I cycle everywhere. Take a London taxi, they are a wonderful experience. We love the taxi trade.”
Despite Boris Johnson’s claim that he “loves the taxi trade” protesters still feel that they are not being considered when it comes to important decisions about the capital and its transportation facilities. Therefore it is likely that we will continue to see protests across London until taxi drivers’ voices are heard.