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The independent London newspaper

‘ULEZ’ will have huge effect on my working life, says taxi driver

'Make a law to let taxis go where buses go'

03 May, 2019 — By Lee Sheppard

Lee Sheppard has driven a cab in London for 23 years 

I HAVE been a London Taxi Driver, for some 23 years, and the recent introduction of the ULEV/ULEZ road restrictions in London will have a huge affect on my working life, my earnings capacity, and my outlook on the future of the profession that I am very proud to be a member of.

Licensed London Taxis have been a part of London’s landscape for the past 365 years and play an integral part of London’s public transport system. Their door to door service has made them the most envied, highly reputable and recognisable Taxi service in the world. They have a history of being able to know and access roads and streets that are not known to other drivers, this is why they have gained their reputation as the world’s no.1 Taxi service.

The London Taxi profession is defined by their Knowledge, professional service, safety record, stringent assessments, access & ability to get around London. Driving a London Taxi isn’t a part time extra income job that you can do on the off chance, it’s is a fully-trained Profession.

I, like every single licensed London Taxi driver studied on average for 3 years to learn the Knowledge and become a London taxi driver, learning routes, roads and streets and the quickest way to get from A to B to C. This can encompass up to 3 or 4 different ways to do this. Now, all of that is being taken away, as more and more roads, such as Tottenham Court Road, are being taken out of the equation, and made inaccessible to Taxis and their passengers.

Effectively, I see these restrictions as a restraint of trade being applied to the London taxi profession, by restricting their ability to move around freely, preventing them from going into bus lanes and certain roads, and thereby forcing them into the same traffic as all other motorists. The beauty and benefit of a passenger choosing to use a London taxi for their journey is for this very reason of not having to sit in the same traffic as every other motorist. London’s streets are a London taxi drivers equivalent of a lawyers court room, or a surgeons theatre. It is our place of work, that we have earned the right to work in and no restrictions should be imposed on our profession in stopping us from doing our job.

But these ULEZ/ULEV restrictions are not just about the profession. All London Taxis are purpose built, fully wheelchair accessible vehicles, and many passengers with disabilities have come to depend and rely on London taxis to allow them to be more independent and get around London, quickly and safely, for whatever purpose, be it work, hospital, socialising, shopping etc. They are the vehicles that provide a door to door service for all passengers, which has become an integral part of their service, and inclusive for everyone to get around.

The London Taxicard scheme alone has over 70,000 registered users with physical and/or sensory impairments and across London each day up to 8,000 trips are taken by older and disabled people in accessible London taxis.

The vast majority of the 23,500 licensed Taxis in London are now unable to go into the ULEV/ULEZ affected roads, as the restrictions only allow access to electric vehicles. But with the new Tottenham Court Road restrictions imminent, Camden Council have made this buses and cycles only 24 hours a day southbound, therefore not even allowing the small percentage of electric taxis to use it. With just 1,200 electric taxis on the road (about 5 per cent of the total profession), even though the restrictions apply for a period of hours in some areas, they are still preventing access for the working taxi fleet and their passengers.

That is why I would like to see it made a law that where buses go, taxis go and that all London taxis are made exempt from these restrictions and be allowed to continue to access roads and use bus lanes as they have been able to, throughout their history of service without restriction.

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