A group of cab drivers that brought Bank Junction to a standstill last week over proposals to close the busy intersection to cars will attempt peace talks with the City of London Corporation next week.
The local authority agreed to meet with the RMT London Taxis, after five days of demonstration caused travel chaos in parts of the Square Mile.
Drivers are protesting the Corporation’s plan to ban all cars, taxis and lorries from the junction between 7am and 7pm on weekdays as part of a safety move. Bikes and buses would be permitted under the proposals, set to be introduced from April.
Thousands of cabbies descended on the junction last Monday in a 90-minute protest, followed by demonstrations in Old Street, Parliament Square, London Wall and London Bridge throughout the week.
The Independent Taxi Alliance, who organised the campaign, said protests were moved around to circumnavigate the police’s attempt to serve a section 14, limiting the demonstrations to 30 minutes. The blockades followed a one-off protest on 12 January by the United Cabbies Group, which forced police to shut down parts of the City during the evening peak.
ITA spokesperson Jim Thomas said the driver-led group was prompted to act after larger trade organisations failed to move on the proposals, which he called “the beginning of the end for the cab trade”.
“First it’s Bank Junction, then it will be Tottenham Court Road, then we’ll be crammed into Soho – it’s severely damaging our takings when we’re already on the down and outs,” said Mr Thomas, who also runs industry blog Taxileaks.
The Corporation proposed the restrictions on vehicles as part of the 18-month Bank on Safety scheme to reduce the number of collisions in the junction. It will serve as an interim scheme during the development of the All Change At Bank project, which will see major changes to Bank Underground Station as well as improvements at surface level.
But Mr Thomas, who has driven cabs for 43 years, argued that “you have to go back four years to find a serious incident involving a taxi”.
“Taxis should be included with buses and bikes; we are a transit service and we’ve been given the opportunity to work on the streets of London provided we’ve done The Knowledge, which is largely for safety reasons.
“If they don’t agree we’ll go back to Bank Junction and we’ll escalate the action – the drivers are adamant that they will see this through.”
RMT branch secretary Lewis Norton confirmed the taxi union would be meeting the Corporation early next week. “The union hopes for the City of London to apply common sense and permit access for licensed taxis,” he said.
“Under the proposals it will be the public that suffers as journey times would increase and fare costs rise.” However, hopes of getting the decision overturned appear slim.
A Corporation spokesperson said: “We have been meeting with a wide variety of taxi representative groups and are due to meet with the RMT later this month.
“The purpose of this meeting will be to explain the rationale and facts supporting the experimental safety scheme. “This decision to limit vehicle journeys through Bank Junction was made following careful consideration and we have been clear from the beginning that it will be launched in April.”