With the licensed London taxi industry spittting fire at the road chaos which has entrenched London over the last few years, questions now have to be asked as to whether the regulation of the industry by Transport for London has become untenable.
On one hand you have TfL creating new road systems around London, trying to reduce pollution within the Metropolis, encouraging greater bike usage as well as encouraging people to walk. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but there is however a major paradox emerging. The licensed London taxi industry is the most heavily regulated taxi industry in the world. It is the most advanced in terms of the level of entry required to obtain a licence, it's not about who you know or what you can afford, it's what you know that counts when qualifying to drive a London cab. It is a vital and integral part of Londons' public transport system, a fact which has been endorsed by successive Mayors over a number of years. The Knowledge is widely recognised as one of the most difficult vocational qualifications that you can attempt to do. Add to that the most advanced (and most expensive) taxi ever produced for the London market, a vehicle which is gradually pushing out diesel taxis, the last of which will be off of Londons roads in 14 years time. Add to that the mandatory instalment of credit card facilities and the optional use of work apps, you have an industry that is gearing itself up for way beyond the 21st century........and Transport for London are the industrys' regulator, taking over from the Metropolitan Police at the turn of the century. Now here is the major paradox, TfL are directly responsible for, as well as actively endorsing, various borough councils policy of excluding taxis from numerous roads and thoroughfares, the same industry which they regulate, London’s taxi network is the only part of the public transport system which provides a door to door service, the only sector of the public transport system which is fully wheelchair accessible across its' entire fleet, and yet they are being squeezed out of the very roads that need to be serviced. This therefore begs the question, are Transport for London able to regulate and manage the taxi industry, given what is seen by many from both within the taxi industry, as well as those outside of it, as a conflict of interest. For many, the answer to that question is a simple no, with some going further, stating that regulatory control should be passed back to the Metropolitan Police. It is very difficult to argue against that logic when at every juncture the taxi industry is seemingly thwarted from being able to exercise the remit which justifies its very existence. This dichotomy represents the latest in a long line of reasons for the recent spate of protests that have taken place on London Bridge, The eastbound taxi exclusion from Tooley Street is merely the apex of the arrowhead, it's the representation of a much wider issue. The Bank Junction exclusion, the Shoreditch restrictions and the Tottenham Court Road proposals, are just three other examples of TfL actively supporting a borough council in relation to taxi exclusions. When the Corporation of London first initiated the Bank Junction exclusion pertaining to taxis, as well as other road users the industry was advised that the restriction was being put into place on the grounds of safety after a number of cyclists and pedestrians were killed or injured at the junction, only buses and cycles were exempted from that exclusion, TfL chose to support the Corporation of Londons' exclusion for taxis. Interestingly, while major accidents involving taxis at Bank Junction were relatively low, a larger number of deaths and major injuries were attributed to collisions between cyclists or pedestrians and lorries as well as (yep, you guessed it), cyclists or pedestrians and buses. Latterly the Corporation of London then mitigated making the scheme permanent by citing a reduction in pollution as a factor, ignoring the fact that the roads peripheral to the junction are now, as a result, heavily congested and polluted. Moving onto the Shoreditch restrictions pertaining to Petrol and Diesel engine driven vehicles, this scheme begs the question "When is a taxi not a taxi?" The answer? "When the taxi is driven by a diesel engine." With nine roads in the Shoreditch area restricted to electric vehicles only, during prescribed hours, simple logic would dictate that all taxis would be exempt from those restrictions due to a taxi being part of the public transport system, however only electric taxis can enter the nine, seemingly innoccuous streets, streets which are neither heavily used, nor seen as a rat-run. Both Hackney and Islington councils, the two authorities directly responsible for the scheme, agreed to answer questions from TaxiPoint pertaining to the initiative last September, however they have declined to answer those questions after they were submitted thusfar. One of the most important points raised here is if TfL support the exclusion, why? The exclusion to diesel taxis serves no purpose, as stated earlier, the roads in the area are not heavily used, they aren't rat runs and you wouldn't enter the area unless you were going to a specific location within that part of London. It is quite clear to even the most short-sighted individual that the pollution around the area is wafting in from the three major peripheral roads surrounding that tiny enclave. Finally we come to Camden councils proposal to exclude taxis from Tottenham Court Road, allowing only buses and Cycles to co-exist along that stretch of road. This is another exclusion which is being supported by transport for London, but why? Could it be that the best way to fill the gaping chasm in TfLs transport budget is to artificially constrict the one form of public transport that does not yield any revenue to TfL, outside of its licensing costs, because all of it's incumbents are self-employed. As a result this could potentially mean that some of the taxi industrys customer base then switch to using the bus or tube services instead, thus bringing in much needed revenue for TfL. All of this does point toward a conflict of interest within Transport for London, and a major headache for the taxi industry. Ultimately, if TfL cannot support a part of the public transport system which it governs, adopting a common sense approach, then the writing is well and truly on the wall.