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London Cab Drivers Protest Olympic Dedicated Traffic Lanes

London taxicab drivers blocked traffic to protest the Olympic Route Network designed to transport athletes and officials around the city after they were banned from using the lanes during the games.

More than 200 black cabs blocked traffic in Parliament Square in central London for two hours today in a demonstration organized by Cabbies Against Boris, a campaign group for the city’s taxicab drivers, who will be excluded from using the lanes from 6 a.m. until midnight. Only official vehicles will be allowed in the lanes during these hours.

“We just want to do our job,” said David Barret, a London taxicab driver. “People are already getting out of the cabs because all the roads are blocked. I’m going to be about 70 percent down on my earnings.”

The protesters say taxicabs should be given access to the special lanes to carry visitors who may be unable to use trains and buses, such as disabled people, the elderly, and families traveling with small children. The exclusive lanes are designed to make it easier for athletes and officials using official transport to access the Olympic village in Stratford, East London, and other venues. The games are due to start on July 27.

“We strongly urge taxi drivers to ignore calls to join these unnecessary protests and instead show why they are regularly voted the best in the world,” said John Mason, director of London Taxi and Private Hire, in an e-mailed statement today.

Cab drivers also say the Olympic road network is confusing for drivers because it is badly signposted, causing further traffic congestion. Olympic organizer said today bus companies taking athletes from Heathrow airport to the stadium are “becoming familiar” with routes after reports of lengthy delays yesterday as drivers became lost.

The traffic lane system will be fully operational on July 25, two days before the Olympic opening ceremony. A dedicated lane on the M4 motorway, running from Heathrow Airport in the west to central London, is already operating from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. as athletes start to arrive at the airport.

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