It is an undeniable fact that the Taxi Trade has been given very little protection within the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS) published in 2018. In fact, within the entire 322 page document there are only 2 pages dedicated to Taxi and Private Hire (which you can read HERE). And nowhere within these 2 pages are there any protections for taxis with regards to access to all of the available road network, such as Bank Junction and Tottenham Court Road for example.
RMT would like to see amendments made to the MTS so that the protections we need for access are reflected within the document. This is important because local authorities such as Camden and City of London, for example, are obligated to follow the MTS within their own Transport Strategies and Local Implementation Plans.
RMT would also like to see taxis added to the TFL ‘Priorities to Funding’ list which obliges local authorities to include those that are on the list in schemes that are part or wholly funded by TFL.
So, how should this amendment look?
Perhaps something along these lines:
The Mayor, through TfL, and working with the London boroughs and other stakeholders will support improvements to the taxi service through a number of measures, including:
a) Continued highway priority for taxi services, for example, access to bus lanes
b) Reduced taxi vehicle emissions and development of low emission taxis
c) Provision of parking and waiting facilities, including rest facilities
d) Provision of ranks and facilities at interchanges
e) Taxi marshalling
f) Action against touting and illegal cabs
g) Improved driving behaviour, to be encouraged through the licensing procedure of taxi drivers
h) Ensuring regulated taxi fares changes allow drivers and owners to continue to recover the costs of providing the taxi service and provide a sufficient incentive for taxi provision to meet demand, in particular at night
i) Continuous process improvements to provide a modern and cost-effective licensing service
Dear reader, please digest the above and pay particular attention to ‘point a’.
It is important to note at this point that the above amendment was not put together by any of us here at RMT.
So where does it come from?
It will surprise many that the above is in fact ‘Proposal 26’ from the Mayors Transport Strategy published in 2010.
So, it’s not just that taxis are excluded from the MTS, it’s worse than that. In fact, taxis have been removed from the MTS.
All of this raises an important question regarding Tottenham Court Road which was approved by TFL in 2015. Why did TFL approve the TCR scheme excluding taxis when at the time the MTS included ‘Proposal 26’? This decision directly opposed directives in the MTS at that time. Taxis should have been included.
This exclusion or removal, which importantly pertains to access to road networks and traffic schemes, is reflected throughout the MTS 2018.
On numerous occasions taxis are placed alongside cars and private hire vehicles. For example, the MTS states that;
‘At present, 37 per cent of trips in London are made by car, taxi or private hire vehicle (PHV) and on average these involve one minute spent active. Walking, cycling and public transport journeys involve much more activity.’
Also, within the MTS 2018 is the following line;
‘Bus services are also important, and buses must be properly prioritised on key routes to ensure they remain reliable.’
Probably the single most significant line within the strategy. This gives TFL and local authorities carte blanche to identify any road in London as a ‘key route’, formulate policy and interpret it to justify removing all other vehicles from that road to ensure that buses ‘remain reliable’. Bank Junction, Tottenham Court Road, Tooley Street, a section of Bloomsbury Way (announced this week) and even the new no right turn from Portman Street into the south side of Portman Square are examples of places that have been identified as ‘key routes’.
Using proposal 26 from the 2010 MTS as a template we suggest that ‘point a’ should read;
Continued highway priority for taxi services, for example, access to bus lanes and key routes.
A further quote from the section on ‘Improving London’s Streets’;
‘Walking, cycling, and public transport should be prioritised, taking space from less efficient general traffic’
This is no surprise, the entire strategy is built around prioritising walking, cycling and public transport. However, unless taxis are afforded the protection suggested above then we cannot hope to have inclusion into road schemes and access to ‘key routes’.
The MTS 2018 also reserves the right to review the hours of operation of Bus Priority networks to include late evenings and weekends. This would adversely affect taxi driver’s ability to provide an efficient service to the public, meaning longer journeys and higher fares not just during so called ‘peak hours’ but potentially 24/7.
RMT will continue working to obtain the required amendments within the MTS to ensure that taxis have full access to the entire available road network and are included in all present and future schemes proposed by TFL and Local Authorities.
We will also continue to push for the Department of Transport’s Inclusive Transport Strategy pertaining to taxis to be reflected within the MTS and TFL legislation, which would ensure that inclusive access is available for all those within protected groups to be picked up or dropped off at a location convenient to them.
Andrew Hamshare, Assistant Branch Secretary