London Cabs’ VIP-Lane Spat to Snarl Roads for Olympic Opener
London’s black-cab drivers plan to block traffic on the day of next week’s Olympic opening ceremony if their taxis remain barred from highway lanes set aside for athletes, officials and media attending the Games.
Drivers will stage a protest in Parliament Square, central London, on July 23, with about 400 vehicles likely to take part, double the total involved in a first rally yesterday, according to Cabbies Against Boris, which takes its name from London Mayor Boris Johnson. A third demonstration will be staged on July 27, the day of the opening ceremony, spokesman Dave Davies said.
Campaigners say black cabs should at least have access to so-called Games Lanes if they’re carrying the disabled, elderly or families with small children. Under Transport for London rules, designated lanes will close to traffic unconnected with the Games at various times between 6 a.m. and midnight.
“TfL, in an arrogant and belligerent manner, is excluding us from doing our job,” Davies said by telephone. “Both the mayor of London and the Olympic committee used black cabs to promote the city when London entered the bid for the Games.”
Cherif Adama, coach of the Ivory Coast taekwondo team, said today that while cab drivers may be defending their livelihoods, they shouldn’t deny others a chance to enjoy the Olympics.
“They have the right to strike, but also people have the right to come and see the Games because they’ll be fantastic,” he said today in an interview at the Olympic Park.
Drivers will continue their action during the Games unless the government intervenes to grant taxis the same access as buses that have been hired to carry participants, Davies said. London organizing committee Locog declined to comment.
Bus companies responsible for taking athletes from Heathrow airport to the stadium and Olympic village in Stratford, east London, are “becoming familiar” with routes after lengthy delays as drivers became lost, Olympic organizers said yesterday.
The first Games Lane is already operating on the M4 motorway near Heathrow, with the full system linking various Olympic sites due to become operational on July 25. Most of the wider Olympic Route Network, designed to speed traffic during the event, will remain open to all vehicles.
Some 20,000 London bus workers separately approved a deal today awarding them payments averaging 577 pounds for working during the Olympics and Paralympics, the Unite union said.
The accord was struck after the Olympic Delivery Authority agreed to provide 8.3 million pounds in funding, according to TfL, which will also pass half the extra fare revenue generated during the Games to operators for distribution to workers.