Fares aren’t fair, London cabbies say
The meter is running: Taxi fares may be going up during the
Summer Olympics when demand is likely to be at an all-time
Drivers of London’s black cabs are asking city transportation
authorities to let them increase fares by about 20 percent during
the Olympics next year.
Transport for London said Friday an association that represents
the drivers asked for the increase in order to encourage their
members to work during the games. No decision has been made on the
request, which will be reviewed by the Transport for London
The move comes amid building worries about transportation during
the July 27-Aug. 12 games. London’s roads are strained at the best
of times, and critics worry that adding tens of thousands of
tourists will lead to traffic gridlock.
Bob Oddy, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers
Association, said that those concerns are prompting black cab
drivers to opt to take their vacations during the games. A bit of
incentive might lure them back to the streets.
”Our drivers are saying … ‘I’m just going to be stuck in
traffic,”’ he said.
Oddy noted that British transport authorities have already
awarded subway train drivers extra cash for working erratic hours
during the Olympics. The city’s 3,500 drivers will receive a
one-time payment of 500 pounds ($790) for agreeing to have their
normal schedules disrupted during the games. They will also receive
overtime pay for the extra hours they work.
London transport officials stress that they’ve been planning for
this for years, that they often handle large events and that they
are skilled at managing London’s daily traffic patterns.
Without concessions, Oddy said Londoners may find it hard to
hail a cab.
Unwilling to let the London Olympics go down in history as a
transport disaster, city transport officials have been working to
bolster the burdened transport system to withstand the strain of
the games. Authorities have invested around 6.5 billion pounds
($10.2 billion) in upgrading and extending transport links ahead of
the games, including important additions to rail lines.
But even that investment can do little to change the streets
themselves, which are laid out in a pattern relatively unchanged
since medieval times. London has only a handful of thoroughfares,
and even those are nothing like the great boulevards that traverse
cities like New York and Paris.
Mindful of troubles that dogged previous games – particularly
the Atlanta Olympics – transport officials have earmarked some
lanes of traffic specifically for Olympic use. The lanes are
intended to make certain that athletes, officials and other VIPs
make it to the games on time.
London’s famous cabbies depend on those roads for a living and
have been agitating for greater access to the lanes.
London’s black cab drivers charge between 5.20 pounds and 8.20
pounds ($8.20 and $13) for a single mile journey during business
London ranks in the top tier of most expensive cab rides in the
world, according to a survey conducted by the ”price of travel”
website, which put Zurich at the top among 72 big cities.
A cab ride from London’s Heathrow Airport to the city center can
cost as much as 80 pounds ($127).
London’s Evening Standard was quick to argue in an editorial
Friday that cabbies already made enough money – and that the
demands amounted to ”ransom.”
”To add to the cost of fares so heftily during the games will
hardly help London’s image as a tourist destination.” the
In addition to black cabs – which pedestrians can flag down –
London also has dial-a-cabs.