We are the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), the trade body representing the black cab industry. We work on behalf of our members to make sure their best interests and those of our passengers are represented. We do this by campaigning against unfair legislation and decisions which threaten the safety and wellbeing of our members, passengers and wider society.
The Tavistock Place/Torrington Place trial is an ETRO introducing a range of measures which is in response to a wider project led by Camden Council called the West End Project. As part of this experimental trial, Tavistock Place has been converted into a one-way road which has restricted access for residents, businesses and other road users. The trial also introduces a partially-segregated cycle lane on the southern section of the street, introducing a two-way cycle lane.
A traffic regulation order is the legal instrument by which traffic authorities implement most traffic management controls in their area, and in the case of an ETRO, it may last for up to 18 months, with extensions available in certain circumstances. Orders are designed to regulate, restrict or prohibit the use of a road.
When implementing Orders, authorities have a duty in law “to secure the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of vehicular and other traffic (including pedestrians)”.
Although we are supportive of the overall objectives of better air quality, improved cycling provision and reduced congestion, we believe the measures currently in place fail to meet those objectives, and cause serious problems for residents, business-owners and road-users alike in the Bloomsbury area.
It is our view that the Tavistock Place/Torrington Place trial has contributed to wider congestion and traffic disruption in the area, resulting in increased pollution and overcrowding on neighbouring roads neutralising the air pollution improvements seen on Tavistock Place.
The West End Project, approved by Camden Council’s Cabinet in January 2015, is a project which will see Tottenham Court Road converted into a two-way bus-only route with added cycle lanes. As Tottenham Court Road is one of London’s busiest streets, the proposal will result in a total overhaul of the road networks in Bloomsbury and has led to Camden Council developing these new measures.
The LTDA, along with the vast majority of local resident and business organisations, do not support the West End Project. Moreover, the Project would result in taxis, a crucial part of central London’s transport infrastructure, being excluded from the southern end of Tottenham Court Road.
We believe that Camden Council have not sufficiently considered how the West End Project relates to the road network in the wider Bloomsbury area, and as a result has not considered the detrimental impact on residents, businesses, the environment and traffic that will arise.
The proposed changes to Tottenham Court Road are impractical and create far more problems than they solve. It is for these reasons that the LTDA has been sticking up for Londoners by campaigning against the measures and sought judicial review of the decision.
There is mixed opinion on the measures in the community. However, by choosing to use an ETRO (experimental traffic regulation order), local residents will only be able to have their say after enduring eight months of disruption. Camden Council opting to use this route has caused significant disruption for local residents and businesses.
Camden Council first installed the measures in 2015 without any consultation with local residents and businesses. Although the Council is now asking for local residents to input their thoughts on the trial, there are numerous reports of leaflets not being delivered.
Had Camden Council undertaken a consultation with local residents and businesses at the start, the damaging effects of the trial could have been avoided at the outset.
No, the LTDA is not opposed to improvements in cycling facilities including measures like segregated cycle ways. However, at Tavistock Place and Torrington Place we believe that these improvements can be achieved whilst maintaining two lanes of motor traffic. Furthermore we believe that the knock on impact of the measures on the wider area has had significant unintended consequences.
Camden Council has said that the scheme will reduce congestion and make journeys quicker. Why do you oppose a project that will mitigate the congestion problems in Bloomsbury?
The LTDA is fully supportive of the idea of reducing congestion in the area. However, the measures as they stand fail to do this.
Because Camden Council’s modelling failed to consider how the measures will affect traffic more widely, the trial has resulted in the roads surrounding the affected areas becoming far more congested, busier and polluted. This has drastically reduced the quality of life of residents, made journeys harder for commuters and made it more difficult for local business to carry out their day-to-day work.
The Council have even recognised that this has happened, noting in their data breakdown that roads such as Endsleigh Gardens has experienced a traffic increase of 290%.
Whilst the aim of making Tavistock Place less crowded is an admirable one, this cannot happen in a vacuum: the impact on other roads in the area and the interests of local businesses, residents and road users are just as important.
Of particular concern is the impact the trial has had on the ability of local businesses to remain viable. Several local business owners have complained that the measures have made it a lot harder to receive essential deliveries. The many local hotels are also negatively affected as the loss of traffic has meant they have experienced a loss of business, since they rely on passing trade.
The business community of Bloomsbury keeps the local area thriving, providing jobs, goods and services, and contributes to the unique character of the area. However, by pushing through with the measures without adequate consultation, the Council has failed to act in the best interests of local commerce.
This modification is welcome, but isn’t enough. The response of the Council fails to recognise the complex needs of businesses located further along the route on Tavistock Place, such as those that require passing trade in order to turn a healthy profit.
It is to be expected that reducing vehicular access on Tavistock Place would result in less pollution. However, this hasn’t made the air quality in Camden better as a whole.
By diverting the traffic along neighbouring roads, including to major transport arteries, the pollution and concentration of poisonous gases in those roads has increased. The threat presented to residents in those surrounding streets has been heightened.
Sadly, this data is not being monitored by Camden Council.
All London black cabs will be zero emission from 2018. Whilst the data does show an improvement in pollution on Tavistock Place. The displacement of the traffic means that this has no real effect overall.
We support the need for enhanced cycle provision within this area however we believe that these measures which discriminate against the disabled whilst also inconveniencing local residents and businesses are not the solution. We have been working closely with local residents to identify a constructive solution to the traffic problems caused by the trial, and believe that two cycle tracks, two traffic lanes and two well-designed footpaths are achievable here.
There is no evidence that the road is safer due to a lack of data available from early 2016. The Council has stated that there are safety complications with the measures reporting a number of pedestrian injuries as a result of the rubber blocks – orcas – adjacent to the traffic lanes.
The alternative we support proposes clearly identifiable cycle paths and a bidirectional route for motor vehicles, making pedestrians safer through a more logical road layout.
How have the measures affected ease of access for restricted mobility residents and road users, such as the disabled and elderly?
The loss of taxi ranks has meant that it is far harder for disabled individuals to travel easily in the area. Many disabled or elderly individuals require access to black cabs, all of which have space for wheelchairs and ramps which guarantee ease of access. However, the measures mean that these individuals will have to travel further, such as to a side street, in order to hail a taxi, a process which can be time-consuming and physically challenging. The Council has already acknowledged this, but has not responded.
Additionally, the measures have rendered the taxi bay outside the Tavistock Hotel unusable by the disabled and elderly that travel by taxi and require ramp access. As a result, they now have to travel approximately 50 metres with bags to reach the hotel or a taxi. This creates significant inconveniences which clearly haven’t been resolved by the Council.
Regrettably, the equalities complications here, which we believe are paramount, have seen no improvements made by the Council. The bidirectional traffic route which we prefer would be better, and fairer, for all parties, and the Council was wrong not to consider it.
Why is there a continued need for taxis in central London, especially with Tottenham Court Road Crossrail due to open in 2018?
Taxis play an important role in London’s public transport system, serving passengers of all needs on a daily basis. Taxis prioritise the safety, comfort and wellbeing of their customers above all else which is why there is a continued demand for them. This is likely to increase after the opening of the Crossrail as Tottenham Court Road station will become one of the busiest in London, driving up demand for other local public transport. It is important to ensure that everyone who wants and needs to use a taxi in the area is able to do so, in order to sustain the areas role as a social, creative and economic hub.
Taxis are a form of public transport and promote both road and passenger safety. They are not the same as Private Hire Vehicles: there is evidence of Private Hire Vehicles using the cycle lanes in the area as a traffic route, which makes cyclists less safe. These kinds of vehicles should be discouraged, but reducing taxi access is not the way to do this. Sadly, the data collated for collisions consider Private Hire Vehicles and black cabs as one measurement unit, this masks the low level of collisions involving black cabs.
We are supportive of the overall objectives of better air quality, improved cycling provision and reduced congestion, but there are ways to achieve these objectives without making the street one-way.
The LTDA believes that there are a number of options which could deliver a better environment for cyclists, better air quality and reduced congestion, whilst also not inconveniencing local residents, businesses, visitors and other road users. Besides reviewing the West End Project’s impact on the area, we believe Camden Council should retain two-way motor traffic on this road. To achieve this the Council could include measures such as introducing a single two-way cycle way or implementing a shared surface like at Byng Place along the length of the route.
Camden Council is currently undertaking consultation on the measures. We believe that this should have included alternative proposals along the route so that local residents can make a decision on what they feel will be best for their local area.