For the sixth weekday evening in a row London Taxi drivers have blocked Tottenham Court Road between 4pm and 7pm, and brought the surrounding streets to a standstill. Many people have struggled to get home by public transport and many more are wondering what’s going on. There have also been a number of incorrect statements made in both the mainstream media and, of course, on social media.
Why are the taxi drivers protesting and who’s organised it?
The Independent Taxi Alliance (who are critical of the London Taxi Drivers Association) have organised the protest in response to Camden Council’s proposals “to restrict access to licensed taxis using Tottenham Court Road between 07h – 19h”. They say they will hold a protest every weekday between 4pm and 7pm indefinitely until Camden decides to allow unrestricted access to taxis (according to this post on Taxi Leaks https://taxileaks.blogspot.com/2019/01/press-statement-from-ita-re-camden.html).
What has the media reported and is it correct?
Report: Only buses and bikes will be allowed between 8am and 7pm, Monday to Saturday, when [Tottenham Court Road] is converted from one-way to two-way traffic from March. (Evening Standard, Friday 4 January; Camden New Journal, Friday 25 January).
Verdict: False. Camden Council is due to convert TCR to two-way working from March or April this year and buses and all other traffic will run in both directions, but there will be no restrictions on other vehicles, except for some parts of TCR southbound. However, from March 2020 there will be restrictions on some sections of TCR where only buses and cyclists will be allowed between 8am and 7pm, Monday to Saturday. But there will be access to around half the road for all traffic and there will be three taxi ranks on the road and more in side streets near by. There will also be loading bays to serve businesses. There is a series of maps showing the (rather complicated) access arrangements here: https://www3.camden.gov.uk/westendproject/maps/
Report: Gower Street will be restricted to pedestrians and cyclists only from March 2020 (London Live news broadcast, Friday 4 January).
Verdict: False. Gower Street will be converted to two-way traffic from March or April 2020, but will be open to all vehicles, with new cycle tracks on either side of the road, and wider pavements.
Report: Various reports have said that taxis and private vehicles will not be able to drop off patients at University College Hospital. There is a petition at Change.org stating this and the Camden New Journal reported that patients would be dropped up to 60 metres away.
Verdict: False. Access to University College Hospital by car or taxi will be the same as it is now via Beaumont Place (off TCR), Gower Street, Grafton Way and Euston Road.
Report: The taxi drivers have told the press there will be worse congestion and pollution in surrounding streets.
Verdict: True. Camden Council’s own traffic modelling shows that there will be increased motor vehicles in Charlotte Street, Torrington Place, Grafton Way, Maple Street and University Street. But the irony is that the London taxi fleet produces a huge amount of pollution and taxis are up to “30 times as toxic as personal cars”. However, Camden claims that overall pollution levels will be lower because of the removal of the one way system and reduction of traffic lanes. Nevertheless, the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association (FNA) says that Camden and Westminster council should tackle congestion and air pollution in the surrounding streets, not just Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. FNA is also concerned that the side streets will be blocked by visitors parked cars during the evenings and weekends, and are asking Camden to review controlled parking.
Report: Alfred Place will be completely closed to all traffic.
Verdict: False. Alfred Place will have a new linear park but there will be a one-way access road and loading bay.
If there is so much misinformation and fake news, why hasn’t Camden Council made a statement correcting this on its website?
Good question. Useless Camden (as we call them) despite having a press office and a dedicated public relations team for its West End Project have so far failed to respond. However, Fitzrovia News understands that Camden will be making a statement later this week and it will be published in the Camden New Journal on Thursday. Let’s hope they don’t screw it up!
We’ll have a news report in due course. Have a safe journey home.
Update: This article was corrected on Saturday 23 February to state that there would be some southbound restrictions on TCR from spring 2019.