Razor sharp carbuncle

Of all the arts architecture is the most inescapable, you can stop reading your novel, never listen to poetry, no-one forces you to go to one of London’s free art galleries, buy a ticket to an opera, the ballet or theatre (if you deprive yourself of any of these in this chaotic and diverse city you really are missing out), but one art form cannot be ignored – architecture. Like it or not we all have a vested interest, with have to live with it, and in it, architecture can either uplift your spirits or irritate you intensely.

I was asked recently by the producer of a BBC documentary about London, “What do you think the best view is of the Gherkin?” As a Londoner it was embarrassing for I could not think from which vista showed the Swiss Re Tower to the best advantage. Thinking about it later I concluded that, although it is a very large building, its shape and proportions allow it to sit perfectly within the City’s landscape. Try it out, for even in St. Mary Axe at the building’s base it retains the impression of having small proportions.

Le Corbusier, the darling on 20th century architecture, once penned: “The house – a machine for living in.” Although strangely most people don’t want to live, or work, in a machine, they seem prefer to inhabit a building which is more intimate. In fact in a poll which asked which was Londoner’s favourite post-war building, it wasn’t the Lloyd’s Building, Shard, Canary Wharf or Centre Point. More popular than any of these was Shakespeare’s Globe, now recreated from the original which first opened in 1599.

Many recent towers are vainglorious tributes to the greater glory of the clients, who commissioned them and their architects, but one sits heads and shoulders above them all for it can be seen in London from wherever you view it – and it’s not a pretty sight. London’s Strata Tower, the world’s first skyscraper with built-in wind turbines, stylised to look like it comes straight out of Gotham City, the perfect place for a hero and a villain to have a rooftop showdown falls into that mould, and if any dwelling was designed as a machine for living in, this is it.

The structure does not sit within the landscape, in fact it seems to scream – look at me – and the exterior is designed so that it is recognisable from miles around. That would be fine is it held some kind of symmetrical beauty like The Shard, but the shape, height and black and silver cladding has destroyed what little of London’s comfortable if jumbled skyline we had left.

Now the building (or should that be machine) has won the ultimate accolade The Carbuncle Cup. Despite fierce competition for the trade publication Building Design least coveted prize, the Strata Building has won this year’s dubious honour. One nominator said “I used to live in south London and moved partly because – and I’m not joking – the Strata tower made me feel ill and I had to see it every day.”

So now the next time a passenger gets in my cab and asks to go to south London I can say to them “Sorry I’m not going south of the River that Strata Tower makes me ill”.

Bridge building

Thousands of my fellow cab drivers in the past have driven over the Bishop’s Bridge – known to cabbies as The Raft – little realising that beneath them (and many feet of tarmac) was as engineering gem, even Westminster Council, who had for years maintained the bridge, had little idea until just before the old bridge was due for demolition to make way for a more modern bridge and a new entrance to the cab rank.

[I]sambard Kingdom Brunel, the Victorian engineering genius who was instrumental in the building of much of our rail network has only 8 surviving iron bridges bearing his name and the earliest lay undiscovered within the old Bishop’s Bridge.

It was in 2003 that Steven Brindle, English Heritage’s inspector of ancient monuments, discovered documents relating to load tests of up to 30 tonnes using a hydraulic press on beams destined for the long lost bridge.

Its 22 beams, which were made in Deptford, which when assembled, uniquely, relied almost entirely on gravity to hold them together, had stood since 1839 encased in Edwardian brickwork and long forgotten.

With demolition due within months, in a race against time, the Brunel Bridge was dismantled and was found to be in remarkably good condition, considering that it had been subject to considerably more stress than its design.

The bridge originally was used to span the Grand Union Canal as a means for pedestrians and horse drawn vehicles to cross over the canal, and next year, if funds permit, it is hoped to restore it back to its designed function.

The bridge’s dismantled sections are now stored at Fort Cumberland near Portsmouth, but next year as a testament to Brunel’s genius it is hoped to reassemble them in Paddington Basin. It will revert back to its original function as a footbridge across the Grand Union Canal.

Little Green Gems

‘Offsales are for all but only those with “The Knowledge” get a seat inside.’

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Cab shelter, Kensington Road from a bus © 1Q89

Often overlooked Green Cabbie Huts are a quaint anachronism from Victorian days and very, very English. These small shelters providing refreshments are dotted around London’s streets, with many open to the public for takeaway sales, they are worth a visit.

London cabs have been licensed since 1639, and by 1860 there were 4,600 plying for trade. Being out in all weathers poor health and conditions have historically dogged the trade, never more so than in Victorian times.

At that time, the cab-driver’s vehicle of choice was a Hansom Cab a horse-drawn carriage which was open to the elements for the cabbie. He was expected to ‘sit on the box’ in rain, snow, cold and wind waiting for a fare and the only place of sustenance and comfort was a public house. But to utilise this facility meant paying someone to watch the cab and the horse, as it was illegal to leave them unattended. Most cabbies would have a lad who was employed for this purpose, as well as for the carrying of cases and general menial jobs.

In January 1875, a certain Captain Armstrong, ex-soldier and editor of The Globe newspaper based in Fleet Street who lived in St. John’s Wood, sent his manservant out into a raging blizzard to engage a taxi to take him to Fleet Street.

The manservant eventually found the cabbies enjoying each other’s company in a local hostelry, each with varying levels of intoxication.

Returning a full hour later and soaked to the skin, the good captain – slightly miffed – asked his manservant why he had been so long to be told that although there were cabs on the local rank all the cabmen were in no condition to take him to Fleet Street.

Now at that time the Temperance Society was at the peak of its powers, and excessive intake of alcohol was frowned upon.

So in line with the Victorian ethos of public service, Captain Armstrong decided to do something about this and came up with the idea of dedicated shelters for cabbies’ use close to the cab ranks.

With the assistance of the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, then aged 73, and a few like-minded philanthropists, they founded the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund which took up offices at
19 Buckingham Street, just off the Strand.

From the Illustrated London News, 20th February 1875 © Peter Jackson Collection

The aim was to build and run shelters at the busiest cab stands within a six mile radius of Charing Cross. Each shelter would have an attendant and provide ‘good and wholesome refreshments at moderate prices’. This would both address the problems of food and shelter and, more importantly, reduce the cabbies’ temptation to indulge in alcohol.

From The Graphic, 6th February 1875 © Peter Jackson Collection

Many shelters had books and newspapers – donated by the benefactors and publishers – for cabbies to read and provide up-to-date topics of conversation. Publications included such riveting reads as: The Graphic, Aunt Judy’s Magazine, Fun and The Animal World. Gambling, swearing and political discussion was strictly forbidden – the last condition was almost certainly ignored.

The Prince of Wales – later to become King Edward VII, put in a few bob. Duke of Westminster provided Piccadilly’s shelter, but who was Mrs Braithwaite, the benefactor behind the one in Hobart’s Place? Or Miss Roget, who financed the Knightsbridge Shelter?

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An early architectural drawing of a typical shelter.

One shelter erected in Old Palace Yard, Westminster, was paid for by members of both Houses of Parliament, presumably to ensure the politicians would never have to wait for a cab to get them home after a hard day debating in the Chamber.

The first of the early shelters was opened in 1875 in Acacia Avenue, St. John’s Wood (handily for Captain Armstrong) by Arthur Kinnaird MP before a crowd of 100.

The cramped confines of a cabman’s shelter showing the lunch counter. The attendants were usually superannuated cabmen. Pictured wearing an apron is this shelter’s proprietor standing in the doorway of the tiny kitchen. From the Outing magazine 1904.

Between 1875 and 1950 forty-seven of these shelters were built at a cost of £200 each. At first the shelters had no provision for supplying meals, but by 1882 larger shelters were erected, which included a small kitchen so that hot meals and drinks could be provided by the shelter-keeper or for a charge of half-a-penny the attendant would cook any food brought in by a cabbie.

By now the watermen seem to have become the London cab stand officials who ensured that cab horses had enough water to drink. Originally, the watermen seem to have been hangers-on who fetched buckets of water from the nearest pump, or did other services for hackney coachmen and their passengers in exchange for tips. By 1850 the waterman had become a quasi-police official charged not only with supplying water, but also with keeping order on the stands and administering punnishments after disturbances. Ironically, the watermen were paid by the cab drivers themselves from a compulsory fee of one penny for each time they came onto the stand, and a further half penny each time they were hired from it. By 1860, watermen had been absorbed into the police force and were not only paid a regular wage of fifteen shillings a week, but were also issued with uniforms.

Only a dozen or so of these green gems remain. They’re worth searching out, because their appearance – a cross between a cricket pavilion and a large garden shed – serves to underscore the truth that the cab trade is so ancient that it pre-existed the modern city.

The proviso laid down by the Metropolitan Police that, as these shelters were situated on the public highway, they could be no larger than a horse and cart. This has given them their characteristic style.

Plans for a Cabmen’s Shelter. From the Building News, 1878 © Peter Jackson Collection

They are of rectangular shape with dimensions described as ‘7 bays long, by 3 bays wide’. Windows are situated on the upper part of the walls in the middle bay of the short sides, and in the second, fourth and sixth bay on the long sides, with the middle window replaced by a door at one end.

The roof was originally felt-clad, but is now more often protected from the elements by traditional slates or oak roof shingles and pitched. In the middle of each shelter was a wood burning stove with a flue leading up a the vent in the roof to carry off the smoke, this square slatted ventilation structure on the roof is not dissimilar to a dovecote. There are railings around the shelters that were intended for the tethering of the Hansom cab’s horses. Some of these can still be seen today.

The upper panels between the windows are decorated with a pattern of holes that include a monogram CSF, standing for Cabmen Shelter Fund, which most shelters have. However, some shelters have either glass or wood in the top panels instead. The whole shelter is painted the distinctive Dulux Buckingham Paradise 1 Green.

Inside, it is warm and bright but this is no Tardis, the shelters really are tiny with enough space for only 10-13 diners. Two benches run along the white walls behind two long, thin Formica tables with hinged leaves for squeezing into your place. Two people can pass with care in the central aisle, if they turn sideways. At the far end the shelter the proprietor resplendent in their apron moves between a cooker, fridge and packed shelves of sliced bread and chutney.

The shelters seem to take on the characteristics of the areas that they reside. The Sloane Street Shelter has a awning sponsored by top estate agent Winkworths protecting customers from the sun. The shelter gleams like a designer emporium with seasonal hanging baskets reflecting perhaps the Chelsea Flower Show. The Kensington Gardens trees overhanging the All Nations have left the roof rustically bowed and mossy. While in St. John’s Wood, a stone’s throw from Regents Park, is surrounded by exotic potted plants.

Cabman’s shelter, Albert Bridge, London, circa 1873-1900 © English Heritage

Many cabbie huts were destroyed in the Blitz and with the subsequent post-war redevelopment and road widening the shelters went into decline leaving only thirteen. They soldiered on with TGWU and GLC help. When the GLC folded, the bacon butty was passed to the Heritage of London Trust, which has underwritten the renovation of all but two of the shelters, at a cost of £25,000 each. They are now Grade II listed buildings and protected by English Heritage.

One shelter which stood at Hyde Park Corner until it was pulled down to make way for the Piccadilly Underpass was often frequented by polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. The regulars, prior to his last expedition, presented him with a set if pipes and a pipe rack. He died at sea but his letter thanking them hung on the shelter wall until its demolition.

On 27th September 1966 The Cabmen’s Shelter Fund was registered with the Charity Commission: Registered charity number 236108. The shelters are now run by tenants who pay a contribution to the Charity to maintain the shelters, and still sell hot drinks and sandwiches.

This cabmen’s shelter in 1904 London gives some idea of the modest dimensions of cabmen’s shelters. This picture is on a cab stand close to Harrod’s, about 400 yards from the present location of the Thurloe Place cab stand and shelter (see below). Since two shelters would not have been built so close together, the cab stand and shelter must have been moved to Thurloe Place sometime after 1904.

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Cabbie tea mug 1935-1945 © Museum of London.
This ¾-pint tea mug would have been used by a cab driver ‘taking a break’ in a Cabman’s Shelter. Cabbies bought their own mugs, which were kept for them at the shelter and looked after by the ‘shelter boys’.

The surviving shelters are to be found:

Chelsea Embankment
‘The Pier’

This shelter overlooking Albert Bridge has one of the most romantic locations for a greasy spoon. Nicknamed ‘The Pier’ due to its proximity to Cadogan Pier, it was, in the 1970s, also called ‘The Kremlin’ as it once had a clientele of left-wing cabbies.

Embankment Place

Grosvenor Gardens

Hanover Square

Reproduced by kind permission of the Rector of St. George’s Church, Hanover Square.

St. George’s Church in Hanover Square has for many years given out small amounts of money to the homeless who sleep under the church’s portico at night. As in many parts of London the numbers of rough sleepers and other disadvantaged people has been increasing, and often this money is spent on alcohol or drugs, rather than on food and drink.

The green Cabman’s shelter close by has had difficulties of late obscured as it is by the hoarding for ongoing construction work for Crossrail.

The solution has been that the Vestry has now started to issue “refreshment coupons” valued at £2 each, (facsimile above), which may be exchanged for food and drink at the shelter.

The proprietress of the shelter is given funds in advance, and she accepts the coupons in lieu of payment for the excellent value meals she sells.

Anyone who wishes to purchase refreshment coupons to give out themselves to local homeless and disadvantaged people on the street, (rather than giving out money directly) may do so by contacting St. George’s Church.

Kensington Park Road

Kensington Road
‘The All Nations’

Almost opposite the Albert Hall near to the site of the Great Exhibition of 1850 ‘All Nations’ refers to the diversity of visitors visiting the famous Victorian spectacle.

Pont Street

Russell Square

This shelter spent most of its life in Leicester Square, when pedestrianisation arrived in the late 1980s the shelter became obsolete. The decision was soon taken to move the shelter to Russell Square. The shelter was restored in 1987. A plaque outside attestifies that this shelter was presented by Sir Squire Bancroft [pictured] a famous actor/manager in 1901.

Now the shelter has been relocated again, this time to a different part of Russell Square to make way for the 2012 Olympics when Russell Square will be given over to the media. It is undergoing refurbishment.

St. George’s Square

Temple Place
‘The Temple’

In the 1960s developers knocked down four ancient streets running down to Temple Place to allow for a hotel to be built presumably so American tourists could see just the sort of roads they had destroyed. When the hotel reached completion the architects were amazed to find that just at the spot they’d planned to put their grand hotel entrance there was a green cabbie’s shelter.

With typical corporate stupidity they tried to use their financial might to have the shelter removed by the authorities, but they were told that the shelter had been there since 1880 and was staying put. With the image of their rich American visitors being greeted by a ramshackle old shelter they were forced to beg for its removal. For a price the shelter was duly moved a few yards down the hill away from the hotel’s lobby.

The green shelter is still there, but the hotel has since closed – awaiting redevelopment.

Thurloe Place
‘The Bell and Horns’

Opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum this shelter derives its nickname from a pub which once stood on the opposite side of the road. The Thurloe Place shelter is probably the successor to the 1904 shelter shown above and appears more substantial and slightly larger than the earlier shelter, suggesting that the standard design was gradually modified based on experience and customer feedback. The protective iron bollard at some point in its history seems to have suffered a collision hardly surprising as the shelter is positioned in the middle of one of London’s busiest roads.

Warwick Avenue

Surrounded by multi-million pound houses this newly refurbished shelter is located in Little Venice close to the Grand Union Canal. The proprietress Pat Carter featured on Ready, Steady, Cook alongside Ainsley Harriott.

Wellington Place
‘The Chapel’

Non-cabbies are normally prohibited from entering, but sometimes we make an exception. Prince Charles once popped in for a chat with the cabbies at Hanover Square.

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Flickr has the group London Cabmen’s/Taxi Shelters devoted to cab shelters containing many pictures from its members with further useful information.

A short 3 minute video on The History of the Cabmen’s Shelters can be found on YouTube:

Here is an interesting link that I have found of Hansom cabs alongside a cabmen’s shelter waiting for fares in Whitehall Place outside the recently built National Liberal Club. Taken sometime between 1887 and 1900.

The Guardian’s food writer Tim Hayward has made a video featuring cabbie Anthony Street. Together, they trundle round London, starting with a full English in a neon-lit Portakabin caff behind King’s Cross and ending with the perfect bacon roll. Hayward even manages to get inside a green shelter, which are otherwise strictly off-limits to civilians.

Between designing handbags fit for the Duchess of Cambridge, and assisting Mayor Boris in his mission to make the host city look beautiful for the Olympic games, Anya Hindmarch is taking up the cause to save the Cabmen’s Shelters from extinction. She has designed a two-way 2012 London diary/notebook which contains tips about her favourite places in London to visit, including, of course, the shelters for a great cuppa. In recognition of her love affair with London’s Cabmen’s Shelters, Anya has produced a limited edition, Cabman inspired, ‘First Edition’ collectible Diary, hand-tooled by London’s oldest book maker. The cover features intricate leather details in Cabman’s Green French Calf leather, embossed with tongue and groove detail reflecting the exterior walls of the wooden huts and features a cabbie’s menu. Turn the pages to discover special details alluding to the character and life of London’s cabbies; a tea stain from a cabbies mug, taxi receipts, a cabbies’ badge and Anya’s take on the magic tree air freshener. With a limited edition of 10 it comes in at £750 a pop. Cabbies who might not wish to spend that much on a diary can purchase the regular one starting from £125.

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Diana Rigg gets her kit off

From Stan Shaw:

I drove a cab from 1957 to 1995. Around the summer of 1968 I was hailed by Donald Zec, gossip writer of the Daily Mirror, he was taking Diana Rigg to the Savoy hotel to interview her over lunch. When we got there Zec paid me off and Miss Rigg came over and asked me to hold on for a moment. It appeared that the fabulous tangerine trouser suit with a thigh length jacket (I was once in the schmutter trade) was not considered “proper attire” by the management. She got into the back of the cab to take off her trousers. Zec looked away but I asked if I could watch, “Of course”, she said . . .what a great pair of legs. They went all the way to her arm-pits, and those tiny white knickers still haunt me. She got out of the cab with her trousers over her arm and they went off to lunch.

Un-Fare: Sacrificed At The Green Altar

Today we have a guest post from Brian who writes about London at the Capital Letters Blog, his insights include taxis and life generally. His polemical view of today’s regulation by TfL of the Capital’s transport is well made and he laments on the demise of his old Fairway taxi, which he claims has served his well over the years. He also questions the validity of the green argument for replacing the Capital’s old taxi fleet.

[H]alf a million miles, two careful owners, sixteen plates. In the end, that’s all that will be remembered of my prematurely stood down London Fairway taxi, thanks to those awfully nice people at Transport for London (TfL). More of them later. And yet, within those sixteen glorious years resides a wealth of faces met, journeys I’d hope were professionally executed and an odyssey of unforgettable stories cut short when more were yet to come.

I’m told by others that my London Taxis International Driver was the best model ever made. A beautiful , reliable Nissan 2.7 litre engine that never let me down and had nothing done to it, bags of room in the front for luggage and my 36″ legs and a boot that took plenty of oil, water, tools and a personal bag. The body had hardly changed since it hit London’s streets in 1958 save for a few modifications. And this is why it had become such a historic London icon right up there with Big Ben, the red London bus and a police officer in a cape. Check all those films with London as a backdrop.

So, in the year when the world comes to the greatest city for the Olympics 2012, this street star disappear and that doesn’t make sense. Lately I’ve had my taxi photographed by tourists up to five times a day. My good friend Carlos taught me to invite the snapper to also sit in the driving seat for that extra special picture that then goes around the world as it hits social networks.

TfL, the Mayor or some faceless committee, in a vain effort to appear green, have decided to put a fifteen year time limit on taxis when issuing new plates. I’m guessing that to them, old means bad and new means efficient and therefore greener.

My taxi admittedly has inferior emission standards. At a cost to ourselves, we Fairway owners were rightly forced to convert our exhaust systems to meet Euro 2 standards. But not a puff of a subsidy that London buses get. Currently, the latest TX4 is spewing out at the admirable emission standard Euro 5. That’s fine it, it even sounds nicer than Euro 2. But keep your thumb on the hand brake buttons before you let me roll down into the Thames. The Fairway has a far superior fuel consumption to the TX4. I am currently driving carefully at a rate of around 26 miles per gallon. Before exhaust modification, it was up to 29 miles per gallon with the help of the excellent Biodiesel that my radio circuit, Mountview sold to us subscribers until recently. Indeed, Radio Taxis as we’re officially known is the world’s first carbon neutral taxi circuit in the world and has used that angle to gain and retain many lucrative accounts with corporates who in turn embellish their own BSI and ISO standards by association.

In green terms, all taxis were built in Coventry in the Midlands of England, the very cradle of the Industrial Revolution alongside Manchester. British goods for British people made by British people. An economic success story. The new TX taxis are now made in China, yes, the Far East. Not only are they inferior products (radiators, gearboxes not making the first annual inspection; I even saw a rear window drop out when a lady closed her passenger door), but I’m thinking carbon footprint in Yeti proportions here. With the Fairway disappearing off our streets at a scary rate now, the demand for new taxis will distil up to further unbalance the global share of the auto industry, albeit miles from multinational volumes. More shipments from the orient, outsized carbon footprint.

But it’s all set up now, factories tooled up and an increased demand for new taxis. So what could we Fairway owners do to maybe save the planet and continue to promote London with our iconic symbol?

That’s it, wouldn’t you think? A new green engine in the famous Fairway for which we’re promised five more years of annual inspections, the vehicle stays on the road saving fuel and steel production and the classic vehicle continues promoting London around the World, thus nurturing our biggest employer–tourism. But sadly, for some unfathomable reason, we’re not allowed to convert to LPG in Year 15. Thus, in my case when the plate came off on August 1st 2011, something mysterious happened on July 31st making it incompatible with or just plain unworthy of a LPG engine.

Looks like they just don’t like us. So who are “they”? Well, TfL is the overall London transport authority that begat the bastard child of the Public Carriage Office (PCO) and called it after some hesitation TPH, Taxis and Private Hire to us taxi drivers. The old PCO stood solidly for decades in Penton St, N1. Although architecturally a prime example of Sixties brutalism, its interior felt like your old school. Going inside as qualified drivers or taxi proprietors, our memories of nerve-wracking Knowledge appearances came warmly flooding back like being read stories on the carpet by our favourite teacher. Maybe it was just a flashback to our younger days or maybe it was just that cosy feeling generated by the friendly faces at various counters we came to know and love. It also smacked of the old Welfare State where we were all securely looked after from cradle to grave, not yet living under the tyranny of the bottom line as we do now. You felt sorry for the Knowledge girls and boys you passed on the stairs as you walked to a counter for other business, the memory of knotted stomachs as you sat in the waiting room never leaves you. Who can forget that frightening draining of the memory as your examiner’s footsteps along the corridor heralded your Knowledge appearance?

Warning bells of change rang when Thatcher and her Estate Agents for Summary Execution Party transferred authority for taxis from the sound and very fair Metropolitan Police to the Department of Transport with the instruction that all Government bodies must pay for themselves. Overnight, we went from 15p to £68 for licence renewals in a world-record price hike and the atmosphere inside the PCO became less cuddly and more regimented.

Inevitably, as our political culture changed from relative liberal democracy to mediocre reformism, London institutions became centralised and the PCO was wrenched from Penton Street to the monolith that is the Palestra building in Blackfriars Road, SE1. Since then, we’ve become remote from our licensers and controllers. Instead of that interaction with real people at Penton Street everything except for Knowledge appearances is conducted electronically now. In the event of losing one’s badge, a visit to the office is ruled out. Instead, the PDF Lost Property form is downloaded and sent off in the post. While arguably efficient, yet another human contact is deleted and we feel further remote from our masters.

In this personal vacuum, taxis have been merged closer to our unfettered rivals in Private Hire (PH). Unfettered because while our numbers have only slowly increased possibly at a rate of five to ten per week, PH has gone from 30,000 drivers to around 60,000 since they became licensed. In a shrunken ground transport market, our share of it has thus dropped further. The growth of the MPV as a standard PH vehicle and their dominance on the streets along with their semi-legal use of satellite offices where they basically ply for hire via a clipboard Johnny on the pavement outside clubs, bars and hotels has thus blurred the lines between the two sectors.

Consequently, with the demise of the Fairway, one less taxi model is visible on the streets of London. The TX will naturally replace that but some drivers will also opt for the Mercedes Vito Taxi, basically a Viano (already popular within PH) with a For Hire light on the roof. Confusion on the streets, is that a taxi or a minicab?

So, let’s look at TfL. To centralise transport policy for London as a whole made good sense. Before, we’d had individual boroughs making policy in overlap with London Transport and the GLC. Overall, many sensible measures came in that reduced traffic volume, improved the air quality and got London moving. But now it’s too easy to take policy in that vacuum without universal consultation, redress or respect. The various TfL boards are composed of invitees and quislings. My own union RMT are excluded from any process because, being radical and one therefore presumes a threat to the comfortable status quo, they’re not recognised and they don’t have to tell us why. The records and minutes of many meetings are secret and some appointees to committees are even salaried. Thus, one must ask in whose interests these trade representatives are acting? Exactly what was said about the fifteen year time limit by the people on these boards whom you expect to represent the taxi trade and have some sense of tradition as mostly Londoners? Of course, we’ll never know. You’d think the TfL Philistines would look at the economic externalities of retaining the Fairway for as long as possible in order to maintain its part in promoting London as a global brand, but alas not. Tucked away in their monolith, they’re removed from our world. This executive decision to prematurely remove the Fairway is just an indicator of what may yet come. I call upon all drivers to make their representations to the Royal Commission on Taxis and Private Hire before the lines between them are blurred further beyond repair.

When the news of the new rule emerged there was hardly any opposition within the taxi trade, just some indignation and sympathetic nods from other drivers when stopped alongside me at traffic lights. Even the offer by one well-meaning taxi driver to create a legal fighting fund was met with cheques of support by just a few, thus we were unable to check the legality of the rule and make a fight. So, to the drivers who just kept rolling and thought only about the next job, you stood by while we were wronged. But now we shall all pay. As demand increases for newer TX models, their unit cost must increase with the rules of supply and demand. To our masters, you’ve let down the very city that gives you an income. If PH continues to grow unchecked and lines are further blurred with unfavourable findings by the Royal Commission into Taxis and Private Hire, the London taxi will become nothing more than a curious antiquity.