Taxi question hangs over Bank Junction closure

Cab drivers have protested their ban from Bank Junction. Photo: Jon Cox
Cab drivers have protested their ban from Bank Junction. Photo: Jon Cox

The question of whether to allow taxis through Bank Junction if its closure to traffic is made permanent continues to hang over the safety scheme as decision-time looms.

The City of London Corporation’s policy and resource committee voted unanimously to support making the scheme permanent during a meeting on 6 September.

However, their vote is not the deciding one; the Court of Common Council will have the final say this week (13 September).

Under the scheme the junction has been closed since last May to all traffic except cyclists and buses, with fines for any motorists who enter it.

Taxi drivers have lobbied to regain access to the junction throughout the decision-making process.

However consultation revealed strong public support to keep traffic out of the junction, with safety figures showing casualties had reduced by 52 per cent since the busy stretch of road in the heart of London’s financial district was closed. The scheme’s data also showed air quality had improved significantly in the area.

Councilman Chris Hayward said the Bank on Safety scheme had enhanced the reputation of the Corporation, and was widely supported by Square Mile businesses and residents.

“We’ve ensured that Bank has become a more enjoyable place to actually go through.”

However, councilman Sir Michael Snyder called the process “inflexible.” He said he supported approving the scheme, but on the condition there should be a north-south and east-west route introduced for taxis.

He said that the U-turns and three-point turns made by taxis avoiding Bank to drop off passengers could prove more hazardous than allowing them through the junction.

“I think they are more dangerous, frankly, than allowing licensed qualified taxi drivers to go through that junction.”

Councilman Graham Packham disagreed, saying the vast majority of people in the City walked, cycled or used public transport, and the Corporation should be doing everything it could do “make this planet last as long as possible.”

Councilman Edward Lord made the case for allowing taxis through the junction to ensure disabled people’s access to Bank.

However Cllr Hayward said alternatives were already being explored, including designated pick-up and drop-off points nearby, and the development of an app for people to locate available disabled parking bays.

He reminded members they only had the power to vote to approve or refuse the scheme, as adding in new conditions would trigger a new statutory consultation period, adding another six months to the process.

Votes in favour of making the scheme permanent have been made by a series of committees over the summer months. If the Court of Common Council votes down or cannot decide on the scheme, the experimental order will expire and traffic will be allowed to flow through the junction again from November 8.