As part of our recent members’ tariff survey, undertaken to get a more complete understanding of what our members believe is the right course of action with regards to next year’s tariff uplift. We also took the opportunity to ask our members if the changes at Bank Junction and those to Bishopsgate and Gracechurch Street had affected their working patterns.
I asked for these questions to be included (even though I knew the answers) to help me highlight the problems these schemes are causing. The results will help me to explain the situation to the various businesses, at or near these locations, that have asked why they are finding it harder and harder to get a taxi for their staff and visitors in the Square Mile.
A clear verdict
Of course, I tell these businesses exactly why this is, whenever I am asked, but I’m not sure they truly understood the scale of the problem, which is that a large number of drivers now hate going anywhere in the City.
We asked members four simple questions. The results were extremely telling and all too clear. In short, the restrictions have affected working patterns and drivers are actively avoiding an area that has become practically impassable. Here is what drivers told us...
The first question we asked was, ‘since the introduction of the timed restrictions at Bank, have your working patterns changed in relation to that area?’ 87% of respondents said that the restrictions had affected how they work in the area.
We then asked these respondents how their working patterns had changed? 30% of these drivers said that they ‘avoid the Bank area completely’ if they can. A shocking further 35% said that they ‘avoid the City of London altogether and never ply for hire there’. That’s 65% avoiding some or all of the City of London completely. That means fewer cabs available, longer waits for passengers and a poorly served and increasingly inaccessible Square Mile.
We asked the same questions about the A10 Bishopsgate Corridor. When asked, ‘since the introduction of the timed restrictions on Bishopsgate and Gracechurch Street, have your working patterns changed in relation to that area?’ 89% of survey participants answered ‘yes, it has affected how I work in that area.’
Of these 89%, 29% said they ‘avoid the area completely’ and 36% ‘avoid the City of London and never ply for hire there’. Again that’s 65% avoiding working in the area and broader City of London altogether and fewer taxis plying for hire.
A further 15% ‘avoid the area at certain times’, which we take to mean during the restricted hours, so from 7am to 7pm. If you add these drivers to the 65% avoiding some or all of the City all the time, then the picture is even worse. It shows that at certain times (likely during the peak 7am to 7pm period), the majority of drivers, 80% of those who said their working patterns had changed as a result of the restrictions, are avoiding the Bishopsgate and Gracechurch area completely.
The figures for Bank show the same, with a total of 79% avoiding the area in some way, at some point, during the day.
What this means
The City used to be a 'go-to' destination for cabbies. It was a place we could go certain of finding a good fare and seeing lots of hands going up, wherever we went. Now, we are forced to drive along congested back streets and take those passengers, who we do manage to pick up, on long, time consuming and costly detours, which prove frustrating for all involved. It’s no wonder so many are choosing to avoid it.
But more importantly, these finding should be a stark warning to the City of London planners, who must take note of the impact on taxi availability and accessibility. Perhaps even more so, they should consider the impact on the City of London itself, a destination and its ability to remain an attractive and competitive place to be for businesses, retail, hospitality, as well as for tourists and other visitors. There is a real danger that it could start to lose out to areas like Canary Wharf, where a more sensible and measured approach has been adopted, which more effectively balances the needs of different road users and groups.
Just the other day, I spoke with a representative from 22 Bishopsgate, London’s newest and second tallest building, who was concerned about not having enough available taxis and was asking for a rank outside the building. I also know that earlier this year, when the City of London Corporation passed its motion calling for a review of access to Bank Junction, that hundreds of businesses, including a number of big banks and law firms in the area supported the need for a review. I assume it was for this very reason.
The future of both schemes is currently under review, and we will be including these findings in our consultation responses and correspondence with key decisionmakers.