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City of London Bank Junction access review recommends committee continues BANNING black taxis

In the heart of London's financial district, the debate over Bank Junction's traffic restrictions has reached a crucial juncture. A review initiated by the Court of Common Council in April 2022 has now been concluded, providing the Planning & Transportation Committee with the data needed to recommend a course of action to the Court.

Bank Junction underwent controversial significant changes in May 2017 to improve safety by restricting traffic flow to buses and cycles only between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Friday. The report says the restriction has been effective in reducing traffic collisions to virtually zero, enhancing pedestrian safety and improving the overall quality of public spaces.

The review, led by Gillian Howard and Bruce McVean from the City Operations Policy and Projects, was influenced by an analysis of taxi availability and journey times. The findings of the report are:

  • The impact of current restrictions on taxi journey times and costs is minimal for most routes studied.

  • Availability of taxis and private hire vehicles remains consistent across the City, with technology like ride-hailing apps providing swift access to these services.

  • Concerns remain for specific groups, notably disabled individuals, older people with mobility impairments, and pregnant women, who rely heavily on taxis as a crucial mobility aid.

Despite the strong feelings among taxi drivers and passengers for altering the restrictions at Bank, the review found no compelling transport-related reasons to change the current system that excludes taxis during peak hours. However, the review did highlight potential economic and reputational concerns for the City, suggesting that perceptions of accessibility and openness for business and tourism could be influenced by these restrictions.

The review presented two options to the committee:

1. Maintain the status quo, keeping the junction open only to buses and cycles during specified hours.

2. Allow taxis at all times under an experimental traffic order while keeping other restrictions intact.

The argument recommends leaning towards maintaining the current setup (Option 1), primarily due to the significant reduction in traffic incidents and lack of substantial evidence suggesting that allowing taxis would benefit the broader transport ecosystem or significantly improve equality issues.

However, should members opt for a change (Option 2), further modelling and approvals would be required, especially considering the mixed evidence on economic impacts and the specific needs of those reliant on taxis.

Away from the report, data from the taxi app and European Mobility operator FREENOW highlighted a significant disparity in driver cancellation rates between the Bank Junction area and a busy West End location.

The data requested by TaxiPoint and generated by at the turn of the year, sheds light on the challenges faced by passengers and drivers in different parts of London. It also continues to highlight a lack of black cab coverage in the heavily restricted Bank Junction area.

Other key findings of the research include:

  • At Bank Junction, passengers face a 20% lower pick-up rate compared to the bustling West End during peak hours (7am-7pm).

  • Routes approaching and within Bank Junction tend to be longer in distance, both during peak and non- peak hours.

  • Notably, the driver cancellation rate for rides destined for Bank Junction is twice as high as that for Shaftesbury Avenue in peak hours.

  • Additionally, the average tour value for journeys either starting or ending at Bank Junction is £3-£5 higher than other areas.

In earlier research conducted, out of all the taxi requests made via FREENOW from 1 July 2023 until 23 October 2023, a shocking 75% were unable to be completed. This is down to taxi drivers in the area facing challenges reaching the pick-up location within a reasonable time frame or simply refusing to operate within the district due to the existing restrictions.

Last month, Lord Holmes of Richmond MBE addressed the House of Lords, saying: “Moving to taxis, an incredibly important part of our public transport network, we currently have the ludicrous situation in the City of London where Bank Junction is closed to Black Cabs, erroneously on safety grounds even though a black cab has never been involved in an accident at Bank Junction.

“Similar issues with cabs up Bishopsgate and indeed barred from Tottenham Court Road. Would the minister consider writing to the City Corporation in relation to Bank Junction and Bishopsgate? Writing to the leader of Camden and indeed the Mayor of London in relation to Tottenham Court Road to establish how these effective bans on our excellent black taxi fleet, how they deliver for accessibility, how they deliver for inclusion, and how those various authorities believe they are complying with their equality duties not least the public sector equality duty.”

The City stands at a crossroads. While the current restrictions have made Bank Junction more pleasant for pedestrians and cyclists, the nuanced needs of all city-goers, especially those dependent on taxis, should call for a thoughtful decision. The Planning & Transportation Committee now faces the challenge of balancing the needs of pedestrians and cyclists with those relying on taxis for vital mobility requirements.


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