24 Jul 2012

Jam tomorrow as cabbies predict Games lane chaos

As London prepares for the Olympic Games lanes, Channel 4 News takes a taxi tour with one cabbie who reveals he has asked his bank for a mortgage break in anticipation of severe congestion.

Transport for London (TfL) says the Olympic Route Network (ORN) will link competition venues with key sites such as Heathrow airport and is necessary to ensure athletes and officials get to events on time.

As part of the ORN, there are around 30 miles of “Games lanes” which come into force on Wednesday 25 July. They will last for the duration of the Olympics and will also operate on a smaller scale during the Paralympics.

Some of London’s cab drivers are angry that they have been excluded from the majority of Games lanes. They say it will hinder their ability to get members of the public around the capital.

Paul, from the United Cabbies Group, told Channel 4 News taxi drivers are also worried about a potential drop in earnings: “I myself have contacted my bank and asked for a two-month holiday on my mortage.

“We’re really genuinely concerned if we’re going to earn an income during this. Nothing (traffic) is moving, and if I’ve got a paying customer in the back they’re just going to get out and walk away.”

The United Cabbies Union has already organised two demonstrations in central London, bringing parts of the capital to gridlock.

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London's Olympic games lanes comes in force on 25 Jluy (Getty)

Protests are ‘tiny minority’

TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, Leon Daniels, told Channel 4 News the first demonstration was attended by a “tiny minority” of taxi drivers and was “simply a recruitment drive for two minority taxi groups”.

He added: “We’ve worked with main taxi trade bodies to understand their concerns.

“We have ensured they can access some of the most important games lanes and that there are pick-up and drop-off points for taxis at the Games venues.”

But not all taxi drivers are satisfied with the concessions.

In addition to concerns about congestion, Paul told Channel 4 News cabbies are also worried about being able to pick up and drop off disabled passengers.

“The point is that in the Olympic booklet TfL has sent to us, it says not to ignore disabled passengers.

“But if a wheelchair user is at the side of the road flagging us down and the Games lane is on the near side, I can’t enter that lane to pick them up.”

Responding to these concerns, TfL told Channel 4 News 95 per cent of the Games lanes are away from the kerb.