Other than to report on GLA meetings we don’t normally mention taxis on London Reconnections. The reason for this is simple. They are boring. It was quite a surprise therefore when the conversation at an editorial meeting digressed to discuss the taxi rank at Paddington. The thing that struck us was how well planned and well organised it is. So, by way of a contrast to our usual themes, we take a look at recent developments there.
Taxis – Public Transport or Not ?
As we primarily write about public transport in London it is questionable whether we really should be devoting space to taxis. It does seem that taxis do occupy a sort of twilight zone between public and private transport. In a sense a taxi for hire is public transport because any member of the public can use it if they are willing to pay the fare but as soon as it is no longer for hire it is a private vehicle although it is of course regulated.
The Part Taxis Play in a Public Transport Role
Some would argue that taxis have no place in the overall scenario of public transport and should not be afforded any priority or special consideration. Many pragmatists would retort that sometimes a journey in London is not possible or not practical by public transport and taxis fulfil a vital role for these occasions and supplement public transport. So taxis aid the public transport user for those occasions when either the bus or train will not do (because for example the passenger has too much luggage) or as part of their journey of which the bulk of it was made by public transport – and the alternative may well be to use the private car for all of the journey. Of particular relevance to this article are the people who catch the Heathrow Express from the airport and then continue their journey by taxi. In reality many of them need door-to-door service and are probably doing public transport users a favour by not using the Undergound, buses or (in future) Crossrail to continue their journey.
The Paddington Integration Project
With Crossrail, the restoration of Paddington roof (now complete) and the rebuilding of the Hammersmith & City and Circle line Underground Station, Paddington is undergoing extensive change. Fortunately the projects were combined in the planning stage to minimise problems and maximise benefits. The taxi rank plays a critical part in this. It was needed because Crossrail took advantage of the opportunity to close Eastbourne Terrace, where the cabs used to wait, and build a the Crossrail platforms using the cut-and-cover method. The displaced cabs needed a new home but this had to be integrated with the rebuilding of the Underground station because the ramp down to the cab rank goes over the station ticket hall and forms the roof of it.
Paddington almost certainly has the best facilities for taxis of any London main line station. King’s Cross is probably next best but appears not to be able to allow passengers to board so fast. It seems that finally the needs of taxi users are planned as an integral part of main public transport schemes and not added on as an afterthought.