The stations of London form a key part of any cabbies working day, and these days probably the only place to pick up fares. But even if you are a non-ranker you can’t avoid at least dropping people off at various stations during the day.
Obviously, the big termini feature most heavily, but you find yourself dropping off at all sorts of stations and using them as points of reference when heading out into the sticks.
If somebody wants Southgate or Gidea Park? “Is that near the station mate?” will be my first question. Now here’s the problem, it can occasionally be extremely difficult attempting to extract from people where they actually live.
Why people seem to want to keep their address a bit of a secret when they are paying someone to drive them home is beyond me, sometimes dropping them off hundreds of yards away from their front door, but that’s another matter.
Now a small caveat.
This selection is based on life in London last year before Covid-19, a plethora of bike lanes and demolishing swathes of north London for HS2. Without further delay then, I present to you my Top 10 London stations, with a bit of justification for each one.
10 – Waterloo
The rank here is known in the trade as ‘the rat run’ and sums up my feelings on the place. The rank stretches to infinity, with stern warnings about ‘over ranking’. I’ve been warned here because I strayed into a yellow box junction positioned beside an immovable pavement barrier. Most jobs seem to be destined for the West End just over Waterloo Bridge.
9 – Kings Cross
This must be London’s most nomadic rank. Since I’ve held a licence this rank has moved at least 4 times. Good fares here but anyone who thinks cabbies wait here to take advantage of tourists is clearly delusional. Fares to Holiday Inn Kings Cross or (even closer) the Premier Inn Kings Cross quickly put paid to that particular myth.
8 – Euston
When architects decided to remove Euston Arch and replace the Victorian edifice with one of London’s most uninspired buildings they hated cabbies. It is the most depressing rank in London. Concrete is king here and the rank is situated completely underground, just make it miserable. You can get good business from here if you can stand waiting, and I suspect some cabbies use it as their ‘regular’ rank, judging by how they greet each other. Occasionally, there are more punters than cabs and you can go straight through without having to endure the misery or admire the poured concrete stained with water leaks.
7 – Charing Cross
Not higher in the list only because of its location. The place where every distance to London is measured maybe, but it’s a nightmare to drive in and leave the rank. You squeeze past the Victorian copy of the Eleanor Cross with barely an inch to spare, dodging pedestrians as you exit, whilst listening to a saxophonist playing a rather unique interpretation of a classic tune.
6 – Victoria (RAFT)
RAFT stands for Rail & Air Freight Terminal and is the back entrance to Victoria, often just referred to as the Gatwick Express entrance. It would be in the top five if it wasn’t for the fact that there is limited space up there. Like all stations dedicated to airports, punters arrive in bursts, with plenty of time to write your next novel between jobs. But you get good jobs from here as people have come from Gatwick and rarely go local.
5 – St. Pancras
Incredible as it seems to us today, St. Pancras was saved from destruction (unlike Euston) by John Betjeman. Dropping off here is difficult with private hire drivers waiting for their booking. Once committed to ranking up, for much of the rank impossible to leave due to a concrete barrier. Love it for what it is, the grandest station around, and plenty of time to admire the architecture.
4 – Marylebone
Another gem of a station, not the biggest, not even the best work. But the combination of steady work, easy access to a toilet and an M&S Simply Food can’t be beaten. Cabbies have argued for decades to just where to drop off.
3 – London Bridge
I can’t help but question the qualifications of the road naming committee. Railway Approach is the generic name given to, well, this approach to the railway – and you then leave the terminus via London Bridge Street. It must have taken weeks of deliberation to come up with those two crackers. Named after London’s original bridge, work seems rather eclectic taking you all over the city. What you don’t want is a job to The City as this entails crawling across that eponymous bridge.
2 – Liverpool Street
Best avoided during the day as it is virtually impossible to get near due to a continual round of roadworks which were started by the Romans when constructing Ermine Street. We would hang around during the night nonchalantly drinking coffee hoping for a job going east. That was until a hapless rookie cop was ordered out of Bishopsgate nick to move us on.
1 – Paddington
Anyone whose seen the lines of cabs snaking back to Edgware Road will understand why a cabbie might avoid Paddington. But it keeps moving and would seem remarkably devoid of drunks. The shortest journey I ever undertook involved picking up two young Japanese girls from the Heathrow Express rank in Paddington. Both were carrying suitcases twice as heavy as them and nearly their height. Not knowing their hotel’s location, and with my Japanese a little rusty, they thrust a piece of paper at me. The Prince William Hotel is located just 400 yards from the station’s exit. After much giggling and struggling, they left my cab after paying the princely sum of £1.80.
So there you have it, it’s not even about the work you get from the rank, these are the priorities for a cabbie. And a small mention for those that didn’t make the list: Fenchurch Street, once in a blue moon when dropping off here you might catch a fare, but otherwise best avoided. Cannon Street, not even a proper rank here, so tucked away no punter would know it existed. Victoria, best avoided until the rebuilding of the area is finished sometime after the Twelfth of Never. Also, you don’t want the dreaded request “Victoria Coach Station please”.