Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, Rupa Huq, has said that the number of changes made to roads within the capital has “completely invalidated” the world’s toughest taxi exam; the Knowledge of London.
During a parliamentary debate on 4 November, MPs discussed the impact of Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes put in place by a number of local authorities.
Theresa Villiers, Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet was first to spark debate over the negative impact some of the LTNs are having, especially on the taxi trade.
Villiers said: “Does the hon. Lady agree that a number of the changes that have been made have a really negative impact on the taxi trade? The licensed taxi is one of the most accessible forms of transport. If we block it out of key routes such as Bishopsgate, we make it more difficult for people with mobility issues and disabilities to get to the places they need to get to.”
A new bus-gate was introduced along Bishopsgate, restricting access to only buses during selected times. Taxi drivers have been forced along diversion routes, which in some cases can add an additional 20 minutes onto a journey time, therefore costing the passenger more for their trip.
Showing support for Villiers comments, Rupa Huq, said: “The right hon. Lady makes a really good point. We have relied on cabbies - remember that taxi exam, the Knowledge? That is completely invalidated by these changes. She makes a really powerful point. I think people feel discombobulated because these changes are so radical and dramatic, and they appear to have come out of nowhere.”
Huq went on to highlight a case where a lady who had regular out-patient appointments at a central London hospital has now been discharged because the taxi was forced to give up on too many occasions due to the dramatic road changes which not only mean the length of a route is increased, but on most occasions, these diversion routes are solid with traffic.
Huq concluded: “If hon. members have a little Google, they can see on YouTube how, all over London, traffic that was supposed to be evaporating - it was meant to disappear because, after a while, people have new habits and give up driving - has actually been displaced to main roads.
”Those are residential roads, and people live there too. They already had unacceptably high levels of pollution, and it has just worsened. If the whole aim was combating emissions, that is undermined when there is a very long way round - five times, 10 times longer, or whatever. In some boroughs, compliance checks that no one is driving trough are done with those sinister little motor vehicles that are idling, with NO2 emissions. Again that seems a little bit serious.”
This summer two taxi groups joined together to submit legal papers to the High Court, challenging not only the new Bishopsgate Bus Gate scheme that excludes licensed black cabs during peak times, but also a review of the entire London Streetspace plans. The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) and United Trade Action Group (UTAG) took the decision to challenge both the Mayor of London and Transport for London (TfL) over its new Streetspace plans as more key roads are closed to motorists and licensed taxis.
The courts are set to hear the taxi trade’s argument over two days, starting 25 November, after the two groups were granted a Judicial Review.