Taxi drivers blockade Stratford in rank closure protest

Taxi drivers blocked the one way system in Stratford on Thursday [Feb 9] in protest against the removal of taxi ranks which they claim have made it difficult for them to “make a reasonable living”.

Construction works have led to the closure of a taxi rank in Meridian Square and the relocation of another rank at Station Street, prompting a group of around 50 black cab drivers to take to the roads in anger.

A statement sent to Transport for London on behalf of the black cab drivers read: “While as a group the drivers can see the necessity for this especially with the Olympics in sight, the perception is that when plans were being considered/made, scant or no meaningful consideration was given to the impact this might have on Customer Service and the drivers’ work availability.”

The east London-based group say the relocated ranks are too far away from hotspots such as the train and bus stations and Westfield Stratford City and signage is confusing customers.

One cabbie from Plaistow, who chose to remain anonymous, said: “They’re forcing us to go right round the back of Westfield and we can’t get near the train station.

“We don’t think it’s right, it’s difficult for elderly people to see us and disabled people to reach us.

“They don’t know where we are round there, it’s not easily accessible for the public and it’s just making it easy for the minicabs to swoop in and pick people up illegally. No one’s doing anything about it.”

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He added: “It’s outrageous, we work for Transport for London and it feels like they’re trying to put us out of business.

“We’re already losing a lot of work, it’s absolutely ridiculous.”

Helen Chapman, Deputy Director for London Taxi & Private Hire, said: “The temporary rank is necessary whilst improvements are made to the permanent rank at Meridian Square which includes an increase in the number of rank spaces.”

Ms Chapman added: “We have now been contacted by the drivers and are in the process of setting up a meeting with them to listen to their concerns.

“Any demonstration only results in disrupting the travelling public, including potential taxi passengers, and the threat of a demonstration was completely unnecessary, particularly given that we had already committed to meeting with these drivers to listen to their concerns.”