It has been reported that the cost of a cab ride in London, during the Olympics, could be as much as four times higher as a result of “Games Lanes” being installed for the exclusive use of competitors and dignitaries.
The 21,000 black cabs in operation in the capital will not be allowed in the lanes, and in certain places in the city they will not be permitted to even turn right across them. This will send customers on lengthy and very costly diversions.
Many drivers fear that the level of disruption will be so severe that they simply intend not to work during the Games. This would be a brave and risky decision, especially during difficult economic times, when bills need paying, and taxi insurance fees need paying.
Currently, these drivers’ representatives are in talks with Olympic authorities in an effort to try to win limited use of the lanes.
Steve McNamara, a black cab driver and spokesman for the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), has said: “We understand that the Olympic lanes were part of the criteria for getting the games, but there is room for manoeuvre. London is unlike any city that’s held the Olympics in recent times. It’s not a planned city, it’s an evolved city, and it’s a large city.”
He went on to add: “We are an integral part of London transport. Transport for London (TfL) and the Olympic authorities are encouraging people not to use their cars. If that is what they want they will have to give us certain concessions.”
The plans have even led to a threat by taxi drivers in London to hijack Olympic routes, and therefore bring London to a standstill.
Mr McNamara continued: “If we don’t make substantial progress, my members are very up for disruptive action. They have said they will stop us from bringing the city to a standstill, but no one knows London like a cab driver. If they think they can stop us they’re wrong.” Stern words indeed.
The LTDA is to meet with officials from transport chiefs and Olympic organisers each week and they have said that negotiations are currently on a “street by street” basis. The well-to-do Park Lane is at the heart of the matter. This is the location of a number of luxury hotels that many Olympic dignitaries will be staying in. There are a number of taxi ranks there that will be closed for the Games, and drivers will therefore not be allowed to operate there. From these hotels, a round trip to the Olympic Park will be 19 miles.
The Games Lanes will open on London’s busiest streets and are likely to replace most bus lanes. This will most certainly not decrease the overall space available to general traffic.
Meanwhile, it has been noted that it is TfL’s responsibility to keep traffic moving during the Games.
A spokesperson from TfL has said: “We appreciate there will be an impact on taxi drivers and that is why there has been extensive engagement with the Taxi and Private Hire trades. TfL is currently working on information for all Taxi and Private Hire drivers which will cover the Olympic Route Network (ORN) and the Games in detail ensuring drivers can make the most of the opportunity the Games offer.”
To conclude, a spokesperson for Olympic organisers, LOCOG, has been quoted saying: “We have a constructive ongoing relationship with the Taxi Drivers Association and we liaise with them on a regular basis around all aspects of their operation at Games time. Taxis can use the ORN but are not able to access the dedicated lanes.”