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Is it time to reopen Heathrow Airport’s taxi rank to all and not a select few?

Updated: Jul 1

Image credit: DALL.E (AI Generated)

London Heathrow Airport, home to the city's largest taxi rank, has the capacity to accommodate up to 500 cabs at any given time.

Taxi drivers wishing to service this busy hub are currently required to register with the airport, obtaining a ‘tag’ device that grants access to the feeder park leading to the airport ranks.

In 2019, Heathrow Airport implemented a ‘one in, one out’ policy for new taxi drivers. This meant that new drivers could only obtain access tags when existing drivers relinquished theirs. Consequently, drivers entering the industry now face a long waiting list, relying on the departure of others to gain access to Heathrow's ranks.

The policy's fairness has come under scrutiny, especially given the drop in the number of licensed taxi drivers. In 2019, there were over 20,000 'All London' licensed cabbies, a number that has since declined to just over 15,499. With fewer drivers in the industry, some argue it is time to reopen the ranks to all, rather than maintaining restrictions.

Opening Heathrow's ranks to everyone could also in turn lead to an increase in Knowledge of London applicants, particularly from West London, who are more likely to service the nearby rank.

Critics of the current system highlight that it restricts the ability of new drivers to access one of the busiest and potentially lucrative ranks in the capital. While the restriction was perhaps a necessary measure during a time of higher driver numbers, which led to over ranking, it is now seen as outdated given the significant reduction in licensed cabbies.

Moreover, the reopening of Heathrow's ranks could help balance the supply and demand for taxi services both at the airport and in central London. With travel and tourism recovering post-pandemic, ensuring a robust availability of taxis could enhance passenger experience and reduce waiting times both at the airport and on the streets of London, better placing cabs where demand is highest.

Many new cabbies drop off at Heathrow and are forced to drive empty back into central London due to a lack of access to the rank. Opening the rank to all drivers could make the industry more efficient and reduce unwanted ‘dead mileage’.


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