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.

The strongest initial impression one gets of the cab rank is the sheer scale of it. There is room for at least forty cabs, probably more. This is despite being built on top of the main station. Although not that close to the main platforms it is served by both escalators and lifts.

It is surprising how busy it is and the planners should be congratulated for anticipating the enormous demand and doing whatever necessary to accommodate it. It is not obvious in the photo but the queueing barrier has gaps in it so that the passenger does not have to walk further than necessary to join the end of the queue.

The taxi queue is incredibly well organised. At busy times two Network Rail marshalls direct passengers to the next available cab and there is room for eight cabs at a time. If the passenger has a lot of luggage they are advised to wait for the current cabs to clear so that they can have the one at the front. There are two lanes for boarding so if one cab gets delayed it doesn’t mean that all the taxi departures come to a temporary halt.

Another feature is a prebooked area which doubles as a dropping off point. This is well away from the picking up point. Licensed Minicabs are also permitted to use this. The bays are numbered so that the cab driver or potential passenger can identify exactly where they are waiting.

Traffic lights with this restriction are not common. These are located on Bishops Bridge Road for traffic approaching from the north and south respectively. It is better if taxis approach from the north because there is a feed-in lane for taxis located prior to reaching the lights here in case the cab rank is full. Because taxis are in great demand at Paddington and boarding is very fast, a cab can be waiting here and a few minutes later have a fare on board.

This monitor at the front of the holding area enables the queueing cabs to see when there is space to enter. Unfortunately no equivalent facility is possible for cabs approaching from the south and turning right.

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.

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There are 89 comments on this article
  1. Weathergirl says:

    Another thought about the public transport status of taxis: in a city with less than 100% public transport accessibility, taxis can be a vital link enabling disabled people to use public transport instead of private transportation or paratransit.

  2. Mikey C says:

    The new taxi rank is large, but of similar size to the old one, and far less convenient to access.

    I’ve only used it once, a month ago, which was late on Sunday after a flight, and half was shut off due to Network Rail contruction vehicles, causing massive queues. This was apparently a common occurence.

    I imagine that once Crossrail opens, fewer people will need to take taxis from Paddington

  3. Littlejohn says:

    If I can connect to my response to Rational Plan (New Trains, Buses and Complaints A Look at the TfL Board Papers – 03:41PM, 2nd October 2012): there is another very good reason for retaining The Knowledge. I recall some years ago getting a taxi at Washington National Airport (Terminal A is an Art Deco jewel). Having reached the front of a queue well managed by a Taxi Marshall I jumped in the next taxi and said ‘British Embassy please’ to be met with a puzzled look from the driver accompanied by ‘Que?’ The Knowledge ensures that taxi drivers in London can actually speak English.

  4. Occasional taxi user says:

    Picking up may be fine, but dropping off is a disaster – there are far too few spaces, and on one occasion I clocked up about £1.50 waiting for the taxi to pull round into the dropping off zone. Taxi drivers hate it. And it is a LONG walk to the station itself.

  5. Stewart says:

    I get the impression that Network Rail have learnt from the huge mess they made of the taxi rank at Leeds station a few years back. There, it is not uncommon to wait 20 minutes to get into a taxi, while round the corner taxis are waiting just as long in the queue for passengers. The mistakes were many and all are addressed in your report on Paddington: the abilities to load multiple taxis at once and to take shortcuts in quiet times, and for taxis to be able to overtake one another to avoid delays. None of these are possible in Leeds so I now either walk right out of the station and flag down a taxi as it joins the back of the queue or head for the bus stop, which usually entails a much shorter wait than the taxi queue. One way of promoting public transport use, I guess.

  6. timbeau says:

    Waterloo has a huge taxi rank, with space for well over forty to queue outsidxe the trainshed next to Platform 1 – although most drivers ignore the “No queueing beyond this point” sign and tail back right across the roundabout, under the bridge anbd into Westminster Bridge Road. Dropping off is not so good – since the Eurostar terminal closed they have taken to abusing the “no vehicles except buses” restriction and dropping passengers off in Mepham Street, leaving their passengers to pay out in the open (whilst obstructing the road for buses trying to get to their own drop off points so that 70-odd passengers can catch their trains), and causing them to block back into York Road) and then having to negotiate the steps to reach the concourse.

    Except for the provision of taxi ranks, I too do not understand why taxis are given preferential treatment over other forms of private transport on the open road (e.g why are they allowed in bus lanes – they are not buses)
    Why should some hired chauffeured vehicles be given special privileges over others – or cars owned by the passneger rather than the chauffeur – or self-drive hire cars – or indeed cars which are neither hired nor chauffeur-driven?

  7. Pedro says:

    Unfortunately the rank isn’t as good as is being made out. When it first opened it took about 2 months to get the traffic light phasing sorted out at the exit onto Bishops Bridge Rd. Often the queue of taxis waiting to get into the station went back to Edgware Rd (over half a mile), whilst the rank itself had no cabs and a large queue of passengers waiting. Also it has been designed for Taxi’s and not minicabs, in fact minicabs are commiting a traffic offence entering there in the first place (note the NLT/NRT signs on the traffic lights). They take longer to complete the U turn onto the drop off area and as a consequence cause delays.

    Also the fact that it requires 2 Marshalls to manage the queues. The previous rank worked pefectly fine with a single Marshall but they way that this has been designed means it cannot work without 2 for most of the day.

    Kings Cross was identified as a good rank, again this is not the case. The way it is designed, 3 cabs can load at the same time, if the first cab is loading a disabled passenger or passengers with a large amount of luggage, no other cabs can pull away until they have finished loading. There is a second loading area (similar to paddington) but this cannot be used unless a Marshall is present which there never is at Kings Cross.

    It seems whoever is designing Taxi facilities at stations has very little idea about how they work in reality, you only need to look at what is happening at Victoria, where the cab rank has just been moved for the next 5 years. It is nowhere near an exit from the station, and is located close to platform 1 meaning a very long walk for anyone coming in on the higher numbered platforms.

  8. JDM says:

    Am I the only one who can’t view pictures on this blog? It’s only started to happen in the past couple of weeks, but I can’t see any of the images in this blogpost even if I click on them. I’m using Chrome but have also tried viewing the site in IE and the problem remains…

  9. Slugabed says:

    I can’t help thinking,as I pass the enormous queues of taxis waiting to get in to Paddington (or St.Pancras International,for that matter) of the amount of pollution they belch out as they either sit still or occasionally edge forward.
    These days,diesel particulate emissions are recognised as a major health issue and one of the main obstacles to improving urban air quality.
    Nevertheless,the powers-that-be seem to be happy to let taxis queue out of Paddington,over the bridge and back towards Edgware Rd taking no-one,nowhere and filling the air with smoke…

  10. IslandDweller says:

    @slugabed. Totally agree with you about how un-green the current taxi fleet is, and their disproportionate contribution to particulate pollution. The existing taxis use old “dirty” engine technology – no use of hybrid technology as yet. All might change from next year when Nissan launch a taxi (compliant with London requirements) which is rated at 138g/km of CO2, compared with 209g/km from the current TX4 model. Although taxi drivers are notoriously conservative in their vehicle choice, the initial comparison tests show significant fuel economy savings for the Nissan model over the TX4, so perhaps take up will be swift.

    As to whether taxis are really public transport. Remember that for a group of occasional visitors to London (say a family of 4 people getting off a train arriving at a mainline terminal) a short cab ride may be cheaper than four single fares on the tube/bus – especially if they aren’t cognisant with oyster.

  11. JamesC says:

    For somebody (me) who has only taken a black cab taxi twice I. The last 12 years of living in London, I’m not going to be able to comment on their usefulness or not to most people getting around London who normally live here.

    However fro. observing them on the roads three main poker t-shirts come to mind:-

    1) Is the current design really sill the best? Having what has been until Nissan’s announcement, a virtual monopoly by a single company making them has prevented any major invention in their design.

    2) A diesel powered black cab produces massively more co2, particulates, oil dropped on the road etc etc etc thanyway my petrol powered mini. Not wanting to bash diesel too much – it can work well as the new diesel mins I is exempt from the congestion charge as its emissions are so low!

    3) the upkeep of many black cabs is questionable as well. Report after report has found that a huge amount of black cabs have numerous defects when stopped. This is partly due to design limitations, partly due to many old vehicles which have done many 100, 000 of miles being on the road without proper overhauls, and also due to cabies trying to cut costs.

  12. JamssC says:

    Others have mentioned above about the use of bus lanes etc. These are valid points and one I agree with ssh well. However it does have the benefit of allowing them to keep costs for the paying passenger lower and speed up journey times, and in theory reduce car usage by allowing g people the option of a short cab journey at the end of a train journey.

    However it must be noted that there are a huge number of taxi drivers in London and removing this now would be political suicide. One suspects this may well have had something to do with their inclusion in the first place.

    Driving style has in many cases something to be said about it as well. The belief that they have the right to stop anywhere, any time to pick up/drop down (including – as I have witness all of these in the last week – on red routes, in the middle intersections, whilst in single lane filter lanes (again red routes), at traffic lights in the second or third lane, which then turn green whilst four or five people are trying to load luggage etc, only for the lights to go red again without any traffic moving)

    Whilst I confess to not massively liking the taxis in London, and being a car owner (for work reason. I often have to get called out in the middle of the night to the othefbside of London) I’m not against taxis as a principle, it’s just that there is still a significant way to go until they offer a truly beneficial experience to everybody in London. (Rant over)

  13. Long Branch Mike says:


    I’m surprised you didn’t take the excellent Washington DC Metro from National Airport to downtown, though you probably had bags. DC traffic is horrendous, the Metro’s much quicker and has stations all over downtown. I suspect the British Embassy’s in a safe quarter.

  14. Weathergirl says:

    @JamssC, I found out in the course of working on the Olympic Route Network a few years ago that black cabs actually do have the right to stop at the kerbside anytime anywhere, including all of the scenarios you mention (except perhaps in the 2nd/3rd lane, that I’m not clear on). The only official limitation is “whether it is safe to do so.”

  15. Greg Tingey says:

    Taxis are an essential part of public transport anywhere including London.
    Cases in point:
    1] Lots of luggage
    2] Family group
    3] Odd journey, for which regular routes are hopeless (suprisingly frequent, especially on the “inner-fringes” around zone 2, say)
    4] Late @ night, when everything else has shut down.
    I only use cabs for 3 & 4, and the latter is much the more likely.
    Want to get to Walthamstow from Lavebder Hill in Battersea @ 00.55 of a Friday night? Taxi!
    Want to get to Walthamstow from Waterloo @ 01.10 of a weekday evening? Taxi!
    Yes, I know, Night buses – but they are REALLY SLOW.

  16. Long Branch Mike says:


    may I add:

    5] Mobility impairment
    6] Door to door service, for speed and/or safety

  17. Kit Green says:


    Not all night buses are slow.

    A few years ago I took an N44 that got from from Victoria to Tooting Broadway in 15 minutes. Cannot remember the day of the week but needless to say it was not busy.

  18. Rational Plan says:

    I did not seriously advocate ending the Knowledge and getting rid of Black Cabs, it was just a point in relation to the iconography of London and that there arguments against the existing system no one would dare change it,

  19. Valentine says:

    Nice article, I love this stuff. I think there’s something very wrong with me.

    at Pedro-
    The Victoria taxi rank has been moved there due to the huge station upgrade works taking place, as you probably know. I cant think of anywhere else they couldve put it mate. Its actually right by a station exit, plus 50 paces from another larger exit. They could probably improve the signage to the rank though, but it aint that bad!

    at no one in particular-
    For me personally, the worst thing about London taxis is when they’re doing their short-cut zig-zag through the back streets routine. They charge down little side roads with narrow pavements.

    Im out walking, say in the city, and every time, as I turn to wander down a little street, ahh look at that beautiful old brickwork, I hear that familiar gurgling engine noise, ramping up into what sounds like an angry blender, as the bald guy in shorts puts his foot down, thick forehead stern as a buffalo.

    Sometimes I think its actually the same taxi following me around everywhere.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I like black cabs for the ability to wheel a buggy on board and not collapse it after a long day or returning with luggage. I like that some of them have a booster seat in the middle. I don’t like paying for them much so it’s definitely a 3 or 4 times a year occurence.

  21. Fandroid says:


    Leeds station forecourt is a shambles. Barriers all over the place to protect us wandering zombies from the tiny amount of traffic that uses it. (A perfect case for ‘shared roadspace’) I haven’t had a lot of trouble with taxis though, and that’s my normal onward transport from there (for delivery speed – I usually return by bus).

    Manchester Piccadilly cab rank is messy, with cabs overtaking each other and queuers getting confused. I now get off the train at Stockport as there is no taxi queue and the traffic a bit easier out there in the southern fringes.

    Not so much talking about Paddington taxi-ranks but the new Hammersmith and City station. I find the new route to the platforms from Heathrow Express to be unnecessarily complicated. The old way was crowded but short!

  22. timbeau says:

    I have no objection to the principle of taxis – only to their presence where they should not be – usually the cycle safety box at traffic lights!

    But I fail to see why they should be allowed to clog up the bus lanes – a bus has a schedule to keep to, and may be carrying 70-plus passengers. A taxi is never carrying more than six and, unlike a private car, is still using up active road space even when it is not being used.

  23. Paul says:

    I don’t think the Paddington rank has been much of a hit with the cabbies. I’ve taken a couple from there now and they both grumbled about it being overly complicated. And I’ve seen quite a few passengers with luggage heading up to Praed Street to flag down a passing cab rather than bothering to negotiate their way to a queue on the upper level.

  24. Paul says:

    BTW Pedantic, I’m guessing you mean “conversation” and not “conversion” at an editorial meeting. Unless you’ve all gone happy clappy?

    Corrected. Thanks. PoP

  25. Bren BRMF says:

    The new taxi rank at Paddington while its all shiny and new is a complete and utter pain to use ….

    You have to trek along the side of the station platforms making sure not to get crushed by people coming the other way, then if you have luggage you wait for one of the 2 shiny brand new lifts … oh thats if there working that is.

    Then as is the case with modern luggage being fully wheeled you proceed to the queue, yes that would be fine if the entire paved area wasnt surfaced with rough granite cobble sets, yes thats just so clever for wheeled luggage, on a number of occassions i have seen peoples nice cases fall foul of this and wheels flying off everywhere.

    Not very practical is it now Network Rail ?

  26. Greg Tingey says:

    Talking of which, even temporarily, arriving @ H&C from the West – & having to go UP & right outside the station (through barriers) along, DOWN through barriers etc to reach the Bakerwoo/Circus lines was a real pain.
    I hope that’s sorted by now or very soon!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Oh dear I will have to confess to disliking taxis and not viewing them as public transport. For whatever reason taxi drivers have far too much sway with TfL – two reps on the TfL Board for example. The scale of congestion at London terminals due to queuing taxis is ridiculous. Having recently tried to walk round the north end of St Pancras it is clear taxis come first and pedestrians a massive second – a horrible layout and one which will not work once that area is fully redeveloped and footfall increases. I have only ever paid for a black cab once in London as I was laden down with a lot of luggage and the tube was not viable. I still had to argue with more than one cabbie to even go as far as Walthamstow – so much for a public service. The only other time was with work colleagues who could not see the irony of LU employees going by an expensive cab!

    By way of contrast in terms of design Singapore seems to be far better organised. There are huge ranks at the airport but each taxi has its own “mini bay” with a rear access road which allows multiple taxis to load at once and keeps the queue moving. In the central area there are cleverly organised ranks with electronic booking facilities with estimated wait times displayed. Public transport from Changi Airport is useless, a short MRT shuttle and then you are forced to board an already full train and stand the whole way, so I have to take a taxi there although I wish I didn’t have to. I find it astounding that the Singaporeans have not worked out that a direct MRT link would be hugely sensible. A future line also just misses the airport by 1 stop. I have never used a taxi to any UK airport that I have used. And the link between Singapore taxis and London is the Comfort Delgro group who have extensive taxi interests there and own Metroline Buses here.

  28. Christopher Allen says:

    “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.”

    Surely the large ramp between platforms 8 and 9 (and possibly the smaller one between platforms 10 and 11) suggests otherwise?

  29. Valentine says:

    London taxi drivers can also be picky about who they’ll stop for – sometimes they’ll ignore your hail for no obvious reason, leaving you feeling unfairly judged. Is that true public transport?

    I was wheel-chairing an ill person once, and the driver completely ignored us and drove by. Then he must have felt guilty because he obviously changed his mind and suddenly pulled over down the road, at which point we both said ‘nah, we don’t want you anymore’ and carried on waiting!

    The next driver was cool though, so it’s a bit of pot luck sometimes. I guess they’re under no obligation to stop for anyone who is not an easy, light traveller, or who looks like trouble, but it can leave a bad impression.

    Such is life in London.

  30. Ig says:

    “Unfortunately no equivalent facility is possible for cabs approaching from the south and turning right.” But, wouldn’t such a manoeuvre be cutting the queue?

  31. Pedantic of Purley says:


    On some other points:

    The article was not intending to claim that the current arrangement is an improvement on the old one. What we are suggesting is that given that the old location is no longer available the planners have done a pretty good job given the constraints they had. Some commentators and no doubt loads of taxi drivers can complain that the new arrangements are not as good as the old ones but no one has suggested how it could have been done better.

    @Weathergirl. I don’t doubt you are correct but with the main exception of red routes I am pretty sure it is true that anyone can set down or pickup more or less anywhere. Technically it is just for that, not for sorting out payment for a fare or having a two-minute discussion prior to the passenger boarding. Not withstanding that, taxi-drivers do not have exemptions from causing an obstruction, stopping on zigzag lines or red routes (I think) and a host of other illegal manouvres that they seem to think is OK.

    @Valentine. I am pretty sure that taxis cannot pick and chose. They are legally obliged to pick up anyone flagging them down if the “for hire” light is illuminated unless they have a good reason not to (which includes not safe to do so because of traffic). The problem is enforcing it as it is pretty well impossible to prove that they deliberately discriminated. At formal taxi ranks they most definitely are obliged to take the next person – hence the cab rank rule – which, by the way, does not just apply to barristers. A taxi dancer is a was a paid dancer (invariably female) who was obliged to dance with the next gentleman available and the payment was proportional to the time spent with dancing with the customer according to fixed tariff. Legally taxi drivers cannot refuse to go “sarf of the river” but there is a legal limit to the length of journey they are obliged to do – I think it is six miles. But with all these things what is the practical recourse ? You can report it but it is your word against his/hers.

    @Pedro. I very much doubt if minicabs are committing an offence. The sign may say one thing but it is the actual individual traffic order issued that determines what is legal an what is not. Of course you should never be successfully prosecuted for contravening a traffic order if the sign did not make it clear. I would imagine that the relevant traffic order permits minicabs for the purpose of dropping off and picking up a prebooked fare and any vehicles needed by Network Rail to maintain its assets. I suspect that mini-cab drivers are aware of the exact situation. When I visited there was a third person at the top of the ramp whose job it was to prevent pedestrians and unauthorised vehicles using the ramp. He told me minicabs were allowed to use it for the purposes stated.

  32. Greg Tingey says:

    The current arrangement may be/probably is an improvement on the PREVIOUS one, but it is definitely NOT an improvement on the old, or original one …..
    Which saw the truncated ramp in use.
    Taxis entered from Bishop’s Bridge Road, ran over Pfs above 10, came down the ramp, and picked up in a double row, where the Theifrow Rip-Off (oops “express”) huts are now.
    Exit was out into Pread Street
    A return to this arrangement would be a great improvement, wouldn’t it?

    Note: My copies of Londons Termini (1969), by Jackson,
    “Betjeman & Gay” (1972) show this arrangement still in use – when did it change over to the West side?

  33. vince says:


    A taxi driving down the road doesn’t have to stop when you hail it but a taxi on a cab rank has to accept a fare within a 12 mile radius. (The TfL website includes a summary of the law for taxi drivers which says the following –

    34. Duty of taxi driver to accept a fare (Act of 1831 s35 and s36; Act of 1853 s7 and s17; Act of 1968, s3; Order of 1972 para. 3)
    A taxi driver, unless required by the hirer to drive more than 12 miles, or more than 20 miles in respect of a journey which begins at Heathrow Airport, London, or for a longer time than one hour, is under a duty to accept a fare:
    (a) when his taxi is on a standing or rank appointed for that purpose; or
    (b) when his taxi is found standing in any street or place not being a parking place (whether on a rank or not) and is not actually hired.
    Refusal by the driver to accept a fare when his taxi is so found is an offence (Penalty Level 1). If the driver is summoned for such a refusal he will not be liable if he proves that he was actually hired at the time. Further, if he also proves that he so informed the would-be-hirer in civil and explicit terms, the justice before whom he appears may award him compensation for loss of time in attending to make his defence (Act of 1831 s35 and s36).
    (The Courts have considered what plying for hire means and what follows is a digest: An unhired taxi passing along a street is not legally bound to stop when hailed as it is not legally plying for hire when it is in motion. It is deemed to be in motion for these purposes even when actually stationary, providing it becomes stationary due to prevailing traffic conditions or, for example, to comply with traffic signs or signals, or the directions of a traffic warden or constable. If a taxi driver stops his vehicle in response to a signal from an intending hirer and speaks with him he is then technically ‘found standing in the street’ and must accept a lawful hiring or he commits the above offence. The ‘for hire’ sign does not legally affect this position whatever it indicates).

  34. NZ tourist says:

    What is lacking in the new arrangements is a private car drop off (all those no left turn except taxis signs) – and where are the luggage trolleys? Heathrow Express means long haul passengers arriving with a lot of luggage making the use of the Picadilly Line difficult. Those of us from the east pass Paddington on the way to Heathrow so use of the Express is handy, if expensive. In terms of environmental impact not sure why I should be forced into an expensive taxi instead of using an already owned private car. In the end, en route to NZ, we had to hover on a yellow line by the hospital and struggle with luggage down to the platform. Next time we will clog up the M4 rather than access to the hospital.

  35. Pedandic Of Purley says:

    NZ tourist, yes that thought had occurred to me but I thought I would let someone else raise it as I was not sure if it was a real problem or not.

    Vince, thanks for that.

    Greg, I agree with you that from the perspective of the taxi driver and the taxi user (or hansom cab driver and user) the original arrangement was better although probably not very horse-friendly. However personally I think it is a good thing that taxis have been banished from the train shed – not only at Paddington but Marylebone, Waterloo and, going back a long time, Charing Cross. If they were able to and actually did run on electricity for the duration of being in the trainshed I would reconsider my viewpoint but it is a small gain for the minority and a distinct deterioration in ambience and air quality for the majority.

  36. Malcolm says:

    At Liverpool St in the 70s private cars could pickup/dropoff in the trainshed. At several other termini too.

  37. Josh says:

    Speaking of stations that are Crossrail building sites, how come no-one got any pictures from the Open House the other weekend?

  38. Greg Tingey says:

    Ome small point:
    ” …. the restoration of Paddington roof (now complete) ….”
    Err, is that correct?
    Yes, the “new” extension shed over the higher-number Pfs is very nice, but has anyone actually looked at the original roof recently, over Pfs 1-8?
    It’s now long overdue for a scrub-off, to remove n years of particulate oily diesel exhaust fume deposits.
    The comparison with the high-number Pfs is very stark.
    Something to be done between now & 2018?

  39. Whiff says:

    @ Greg – I too was trying to recall the original taxi arrangements. I definitely remember the road down the slope and through the middle of the station being there when I semi-regularly passed through the station in the late 80’s so think it must have been removed when the station was first renovated in the early 90’s. Aside from the environmental considerations I think the health and safety people would rightly be unhappy about having moving vehicles crossing the busy concourse area.

  40. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Speaking of stations that are Crossrail building sites, how come no-one got any pictures from the Open House the other weekend?

    I got up early on the Sunday and went to London solely for the purpose of going on the Bond Street station tour. I arrived at Bond Street station by 9.30 a.m. There was already a queue. I joined it. At 10 a.m. the Crossrail staff (who had been around since at least quarter to) then and only then admitted the first 25 people. This left at least 75 people who had been waiting around unnecessarily when they could have been advised that there was no chance of them getting in. I was not prepared to wait in the rain for the next tour starting at 11.00 a.m. To put it mildly, the arrangements for visiting, as with all of Open House this year, could have been better.

    After this I think I will need to leave all Crossrail reporting to someone else because at the moment I don’t feel kindly disposed towards Crossrail.

    If you want a report on Crossrail during open house see Diamond Geezer’s report on it. As well as reporting on a visit to Canary Wharf Crossrail station he comments on the booking system for Open House this year. This ticketing shambles would not have affected Bond Street as it was “first come, first served” but it would have helped if they had let us know in advance that it was restricted to 25 people per visit. I got the impression from the conversations that the people who got in were serious open house visitors and to them this was just one of many they did that weekend and at other times.

    Rant Over.

  41. Pedantic of Purley says:


    One would like to think that once the station is dominated by electric services they will give the roof a good clean. We can but hope. There is not much point in doing it before then.

  42. DW down under says:

    I have been involved in the taxi industry in three Australian states, but not during my time in Britain. I am in no doubt that taxis form a part of the regulated public transport continuum. Of course, there will be local legalities affecting the definition of public carriage, but when terms like “flagfall” and “detention” remain in use, one can detect the influence of the British Hackney Carriage.

    As I see it, the public transport continuum runs through travelators and escalators, small public vehicles (including taxis, hire cars), wheelchair accessible public vehicles, minibuses, shuttle buses, stage and express service buses, tour and charter vehicles of all sizes, rail-based services (trams, trains, monorail), maglevs, watercraft based services (incl ferries and water-taxis), “public” aviation and cable systems (funiculars, “dangleways”). All of these have the characteristics that they are not the property of the traveller; are not operated, steered or driven by the traveller; do not remain with the traveller upon arrival; and are used by many travellers through the passage of time.

    I owned and operated a wheelchair-accessible maxi-taxi which seated 10 passengers, or could carry 2 passengers secured in their wheelchairs (manual or powered) plus 4 walk-in passengers, or 1 passenger travelling with their mobility scooter plus up to 3 other passengers. Regulations required that all taxis be operated on Friday and Saturday nights until 3.00am. Buses generally stopped at 11.30pm, and a limited train service ran after midnight.

    I spent a considerable amount of the night ferrying informal groups of passengers (8 – 10 people) home from a major nightlife area. These groups formed themselves up because the maxi-taxis were clearing large groups much faster than standard cabs were clearing single and small group (up to 4) hires. By sharing, there was also some scope for saving money on the fare. Now of course it was stressful for the driver to deal with people who had only the rough direction away from the nightlife area in common, and who had imbibed quite freely prior to joining the taxi queue. But for the most part it worked. The taxi industry took home all those who had come in by bus, together with those who came in by private car and wisely decided they didn’t have a sober enough driver for the trip home. How many pax on London’s night buses Friday and Saturday nights? Would 10 be a reasonable load?

    So I take a small pinch of offence at any suggestion that the taxi industry is not a key element of public transport. Yes, I’ll agree it’s not MASS transit. Indeed, it’s at the SMALL transit end of the continuum. But an essential part nonetheless.

    DW downunder

  43. timbeau says:

    Vince – so it seems a taxi that stops when hailed is obliged to accept the fare (subject to distance etc limits) but the driver can refuse to take you if you just jumpinto one waiting at the traffic lights.

    Malcolm – I’m sure private cars could stop to pick up at paddington until the late 80s – indeed I recall doing so myself.

    Kings Cross used to have a drop off point where Platorm 0 now is.

    DW – undoubtedly taxis are public transport (and I take the point that they are different from self-drive hire cars for the reasons you give) but they are not MASS transit and therefore should not be given the same privileges that very high occupancy vehicles are given – in particular the use of bus lanes. They fill the gaps left by public mass transport (buses etc) by virtue of timetabling, accessibility etc that users are unable to fill using their own private transport, either through lack of resources, disability, inebriation, or simply choice

  44. Anonymous says:

    @ DW downunder – we will have to agree to disagree about the extent to which taxis are part of the public transport network in London. One point you did raise was interesting and that was your query about night bus loadings and what the average was. I don’t have such a number but I can assure you that many routes do load very well – usually on trips from the centre outwards although the later buses have strong flows in to town for early bird workers like cleaners, market staff etc. I have been snapping Night Buses in the centre of London for the last 4 years and they’re on Flickr

    http:[email protected]/sets/72157619953634241/

    I hope the LR Team will not object to the shameless plug. Please note that a proportion of the photos show buses at their final stops or on stands hence why they are empty. For obvious reasons you have to take night bus snaps when buses are stationary. Some of the busiest routes run more frequently than every 10 minutes and load extremely well. Other photos will show buses full to bursting point which perhaps is more the point!

    I used one of the suburban night routes a few weeks back, the 108 which links south east and east london via the Blackwall Tunnel, and it was full most of the way despite the journey being at 0200! I noticed one passenger then connected into the N86, which links Stratford to Harold Hill, in preference to a night 25 so he was clearly travelling beyond Ilford. Lewisham to, say, Romford is some trip by night bus but shows the distances people travel and why the night buses are so valuable. Taxis are in demand too but the fares are a long way beyond my finances!

  45. Anonymous says:

    Agree with DW. IMO many of the comments here reflect the unique situation of our well (transport) served capital In many other conurbations where bus deregulation has decimated services Taxi/private hire vehicles are often the only public transport option after the shops have closed! Be careful what you wish for, one day/night you may need one…….

  46. Philip Arlington says:

    Of course taxis are part of the public transport system. The idea that they might not be doesn’t even arise unless one comes to the question with ideological baggage. Does it become easier to live with this reality if you remember that most taxi drivers are working class?

  47. Malcolm says:

    Returning to a taxi rank – what is a successful one? I submit it is one where, depending on traffic conditions, there may be people waiting for taxis, or taxis waiting for people (or possibly neither), but not both at the same time.

    It would also be good if a mechanism could be found for queuing taxis so that they could stop their engines, i.e some sort of round-robin arrangement where a taxi enters a (virtual) queue and does not have to move again until it is the virtual first one. Like going into a side-by-side row of numbered slots, and staying there until the slot number comes up on an indicator. Or they could drive onto the end of a long intermittently-moving belt, and only restart the engine when they get to the front of the belt. Dream on…

  48. Paul says:

    I’m going to refer you to a tale of when I first moved to London around 15 years ago, living in the Turpike Lane area in the North East favoured by many recent arrivals, I was wowed by the fact that the N29 bus ran every 10 minutes all night and I duly embarked on several youthful excursions involving friends, alcohol and various other vices.

    One winter Saturday night I was out around Kings’ Cross and at about 1am started heading home, I must have got to the Warren Street area at around 1.30. I stood at a bus stop, waiting for my 6-times an hour ride home, free with my Travelcard. After a few minutes the N29 did indeed arrive, two decks worth of “metrobus”, and accelerated past me despite my frantic waving. It was full to bursting point. The next one was the same, and by the time the fifth one had passed it was gone two and there was no sign of improvement. Not liking the look of any of the illegal cabs that were eyeing me hopefully (these were very common in London at the time), I did the only thing I could; I crossed the road and took a much less crowded (but still not empty) N29 heading the other way, riding all the way down to Trafalgar Square and back again. This time smugly with a seat upstairs. I got home at about 4am.

    Since then, much has changed. The buses all got replaced, there are more of them, the illegal cabs got cracked down on, I remember at least one 4am nightbus traffic jam on Charing Cross Road, and if anything now on the odd occasion I’m out that late, I find the buses have got even busier. Maybe not in both directions all night, but they’re consistently well loaded in the tidal flows. And they’re invariably double deckers as well.

  49. timbeau says:

    Philip Arlington

    I’m not sure where ideological baggage or indeed class comes into it – most van drivers and private chauffeurs are working class come to that but they can’t drive in bus lanes. Indeed, taxi drivers are small businessmen and have a reputation for being working-class Tories. There is a spectrum between wholly private transport – a private jet, for example, and wholly public transport (e.g. a free scheduled bus service on a fixed route and schedule). Elsewhere on the spectrum come self-drive hire cars, premium services such as Pullman cars, Concorde, etc

    A taxi plying for hire is available to the public, but as soon as it is hired it becomes private!

  50. Malcolm says:

    I think the notion of what is and is not public transport deserves more exploration still. I don’t see it as a spectrum, it seems that most people would be inclined to answer the question “Is X public transport” with yes or no, and not with “partly” or “to some extent”. But it is a fuzzy category (like most categories). The article was right to start out by declaring that the author does see taxis as public transport, because many people do not. The fact that they do not may well be where Philip is coming from, because it is tied up with their idea of class. It is with mine, anyway. To me, the question “How wil we get there, shall we use a taxi or public transport?” makes perfect sense. And to me, being upper class means that you are less likely to use public transport, but also that you are more likely to use taxis.

    It is often said that the notion of class is obsolete these days. I do not agree with this (although I do perhaps wish that it were true). But the notion is certainly a slippery one, and perhaps it is getting slipperier.

  51. Malcolm says:

    It might also be worth mentioning that the usual French translation of “public transport” is “transport en commun”. That might be revealing in why I feel that Concorde /was/ public transport, and taxis and private jets are not. In public transport you have to expect to be sharing a vehicle with a stranger.

  52. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Yes, but such an argument depends on which language you choose. If you choose german then public transport translates as “öffentliche Verkehrsmittel” which translating very literally means something like “open-type means of transport” so on that basis you don’t have to expect to share. It just has to be available for everyone – and funnily enough “for everyone” in latin is “omnibus”.

  53. Malcolm says:

    To be a bit picky, it wasn’t an argument. You can’t prove anything by choosing a language, translating a phrase into it, and then literally translating it back again. (Though admittedly people sometimes do try, and it may have looked as if that was my intention – it was not).

    Yes, I quite agree with you that the literal meaning of the phrase “public transport” would include taxis, and I certainly have no objection to your decision to use that meaning in your article. But obviously you know that some people’s understanding of the phrase “public transport” does not include taxis. This discussion is, I think, exploring some of the background to this variation in understanding. But speaking for myself, I’d rather discuss how taxi arrangements can be improved, or maybe other transport matters, than this probably-unimportant linguistic digression. I did enjoy the article, by the way…

  54. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Yes. I think the british have a bit of an obsession about categorising things and at the end of the day, for our purposes, it is pretty unimportant. For the record, I don’t have a strong personal opinion as to what public transport is or isn’t but I put that in the article because I was interested in what other people’s views were.

  55. DW down under says:

    Timbeau @ 9 Oct

    So, if a taxi upon being hired becomes private, what is a fully-loaded bus that can take no more pax, a chartered bus, train or ferry, etc. Do they magically become “private” too.

    I’m sorry, the logic doesn’t hold up. The only difference is SCALE. The Taxi is SMALL Transit; Buses, trams, light rail are MEDIUM-capacity Transit; and Metros and Suburban Rail are MASS Transit. Trans-Thames ferries would be MEDIUM Transit, but some ferries used in commuting contexts have MASS transit capacities.

    As to whether a particular BUS lane should also accommodate taxis, surely this is a micro-management issue for local authorities. In some cases, the lanes are TRANSIT lanes anyway; in others, even empty public authority buses are banned. So there’s little point in stating that Taxis should be allowed or banned as a one-size-fits-all. In the case of Oxford St, I can well imagine that retailers’ interests would have some sway – and allowing taxis access to destinations is beneficial to the businesses at those destinations. So I think the authorities’ decision would be sound. But if you are looking at a bus lane on a three-lanes per carriageway limited access road with high frequency stage service, one might come to a different conclusion.


    DW downunder

  56. timbeau says:


    You are confusing the private/public distinction with the separate issue of scale. A privately chartered bus is indeed private. But it is still mass transit and therefore allowed in bus lanes whose purpose is to prioritise the most efficient users of road space.

    Some bus-only roads are limited to local services, but this is where access for public transport, rather than capacity, is the issue. If such a road gives access to both a taxi rank and a bus station, they do of course allow taxis too.

    But I fail to understand why allowing taxis access to shopping areas is good for business but allowing other cars in is not. Why should my partner have to hunt for a taxi, driven by a stranger, to get her shopping home*, when I have a perfectly good car of my own in which I could collect her and the shopping, if only I could get it anywhere near the shops?

    *or be forced to lug her purchases to the nearest gloomy rip-off priced multi-storey car park (in which, despite the council’s tautologous claims, she does not feel “safe and secure”)

  57. Confused says:

    Surely since hackney carriages are licensed and regulated by the Public Carriage Office they must be public transport particularly since the same body defines the minicab as a private hire vehicle.

  58. timbeau says:

    So “Private Hire” vehicles are “public transport”? They are also licensed and regulated by the Public Carriage Office.

  59. Confused (now not) says:

    Oh I see, like public schools (UK not US)

  60. Anonymous says:

    Private vehicles could collect/drop-off between the centre platforms at Waterloo as late as the mid 80s. I well remember doing so when meeting the end of term schools special.

  61. Anonymous says:

    I miss the old rank, where there were spaces specifically for non-taxis to park for 20 minutes to pick up or drop off people – living locally, I often take elderly and frail friends to and from Paddington when they have a lot of luggage. If they try and get a taxi from Paddington to my address, they frequently get abused by the taxi drivers because after queuing for a fare for some time, they don’t want to take someone ten minutes down the road to Bayswater. I have been driving to the new rank, pretending to be a minicab (I’m not) to drop off and pick up, and so far, no-one has stopped me, but it doesn’t feel like I’m doing the right thing as it used to when there were spaces which said 20 minutes only…..

  62. Westfiver says:

    At Paddington in the early 70s, it was not only the taxi rank between platforms 8 and 9, there was also public parking for picking up and dropping off. I remember driving down the ramp on several occasions in my Morris Minor to pick my sister up, when she was returning from holiday in Cornwall.

  63. Terranova47 says:

    About time something was done to improve the cab rank here. I’m a Londoner now living in New York. Flying into Heathrow with luggage, taking Heathrow Express then walking well out of the way to reach the cab rank, one then joined a queue where dispatchers looked for passengers to share cabs to the city as priority over anyone with luggage. Any advantage in time saved taking the train was lost waiting for a cab. In recent years I just pre-arrange a car service meet me at the airport and to hell with taking the train.

  64. timbeau says:

    “Flying into Heathrow with luggage, taking Heathrow Express”
    Why would anyone make the mistake of using HEx more than once. “Fastest way to Central London”? Not on my definition of Central. Even if I actually wanted to go to Paddington, there’s Heathrow Connect.

  65. Shuj says:

    Right, so there is some debate on whether taxis are a part of public transport or not. But I think that it is clear that taxis or even Private Hire Minicabs (the cheaper alternative to London Black Cabs) are an important part of public transport.

    Lets me give you a few good reasons:

    The sheer fact that Paddington taxi rank is always heaving which means there is a clear demand for taxis.

    Taxis are useful in assisting long haul journeys where it makes sense to get a taxi to the station and then complete the rest of the journey on train.

    If there were no minicabs it would be an absolute disaster to clear pubs. Pub owners and staff depend on cabs heavily to clear drunken passengers and make space for new customers.

    Local councils use Private Hire Minicabs on a regular basis to transport children with special needs. They are heavily regulated and the best value for money transport for this particular type of transport.

    [Last bit deleted as looks like a blatant plug for a particular mini-cab firm.PoP]

  66. timbeau says:

    ” But I think that it is clear that taxis or even Private Hire Minicabs (the cheaper alternative to London Black Cabs) are an important part of public transport”
    Important part of the transport mix, yes. Public transport-debatable. Although there is a scale from private car at one end to completely free services like lifts, escalators, airport inter-terminal shuttles at the other, with self drive car hire, chartered coach, car clubs (and Boris Bikes), taxi sharing, private hire (minicab), hackney cab, train and stage-carriage bus all at different places along the spectrum. A taxi is public when the flag is up (because anyone can hire it) and private when the flag is down (because whilst it’s on hire the hirer has exclusive use of it)

  67. Anon5 says:

    From a brand point of view the TfL taxi/private hire logo (or whatever it is these days – it’s changed a few times since inception) must be the most badly reproduced in the capital. The number of times I’ve seen mini-cab firms with poorly reproduced roundels sat behind cross bars with incorrect dimensions.

  68. ML says:

    Although taxis provide an important part of the transport mix, in central London, more than half of the traffic is taxis, so most of the delays to buses are caused by taxis. This being so, why are taxis allowed in bus lanes? Banning taxis from bus lanes would speed the buses and provide the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people. Improving the speed of buses relative to taxis might even encourage transfer of some users from taxis to buses, reducing overall congestion.

  69. Fandroid says:

    Although taxis crowd the central London streets in great numbers, and presumably the proportion of passenger-free taxis driving around must be reasonably significant, I’m not sure they are causing big hold-ups in bus lanes. Out in the streets where no bus-lanes exist, they probably are causing bus delays, but that’s not the same thing.

  70. Long Branch Mike says:


    Surely the issue of taxis in bus lanes has been looked at by TfL +/- city government?

  71. Littlejohn says:

    I see that Nissan has announced a refined version of its new Black Cab. I wonder how obvious this comment will be in the revamped LR?

  72. timbeau says:

    Well, I spotted it – but already fallen off the bottom is the similar comment I made (although “refined” is a long way from the description I used!) less than twelve hours previously on another thread

  73. Littlejohn says:

    @timbeau. According to the news report, ‘refined’ as in redesigned headlights and grille, to make it less ‘van like’. I should have used the thread you quote, but putting ‘taxi’ into the LR search engine only came up with this one.

    Apologies for this late reply; I was beset by technology gremlins – solved (of course) by the omniscient John Bull. Thanks again John.

  74. timbeau says:

    yes, I know which sense of the word “refined” was intended, but I was taking advantage of the ambiguity of the word. It doesn’t work – any more than the “face” of a Borismaster looks like anything AEC ever produced.

  75. timbeau says:

    Oops – middle sentence got lost there
    yes, I know which sense of the word “refined” was intended, but I was taking advantage of the ambiguity of the word.
    The write-up suggests the redesign is to make it look more like an FX4/TX4. It doesn’t work – any more than the “face” of a Borismaster looks like anything AEC ever produced.

  76. Littlejohn says:

    @timbeau. I know you are not suggesting putting a triangle on the front of a Borismaster (at least I hope not). Once I get the new clutch in my Reliance I will be happy. Southall Lives!

  77. timbeau says:


    How about an RM grille?
    or perhaps a half-cab!

  78. Littlejohn says:

    @timbeau. This is starting to sound like one of the unsuccessful designs:

  79. Greg Tingey says:

    People forget that the ORIGINAL RM did not have a grille or visible radiator.
    It was underneath, & coupled with the first, inadequate engine, caused all sorts of problems.
    It the RM was introduced today, one can just imagine the shrieks & catcalls from the irreconcileable Ken-crawlers, as the RM went through it’s (quite painful & difficult) development process.

    Please not that this is NOT an endorsement of Boris – see DG’s remarks today on the Arab-fly Dangleway which might constitute a guide to the sort of waste of money we really do not need in London.

  80. Greg Tingey says:

    Oops, I forgot …
    timbeau @ 9 January various …
    Actually, the “Borismaster” looks remarkably like an LT type especially from the rear ….

  81. timbeau says:

    the same bus – front view. Might have been a runner if crew operation had been envisaged 24/7

    Meanwhile, in Macedonia……………

  82. Grahame says:

    Its so far from the platforms GPS, stamina and oxygen almost essential.

  83. Night Niall says:

    Is this taxi rank well used today to justify it’s good and interesting upgrade as part if Crossrail?

  84. Andrew M says:

    (Apologies for reviving this old thread)

    Yesterday I cycled out of Paddington station via the new taxi rank, through the covered passage and onto Bishop’s Bridge. The levels of pollution inside that short covered passage are staggering; and that from just half a dozen black cabs and their ancient diesel engines ticking over.

    The new taxi rank itself is still well-used, both for arrivals and departures. However at the front of the station (Praed Street) there are still plenty of taxis dropping off and picking up passengers, only without the benefit of a managed taxi rank. This annoys other traffic on Praed Street no end. Here on Google Street View we can see two cabs stopped by the traffic cones. It seems a shame not to use that slip road as a secondary taxi rank; their infamous tight turning circle would be useful for once.

  85. timbeau says:

    Similar antisocial behaviour can often be observed here,-0.114241&spn=0.000053,0.042272&cbll=51.504118,-0.113998&layer=c&panoid=Q0eoOOudgTXYufK0ZwzkPA&cbp=12,121.72,,0,-0.78&t=m&z=15
    with cabbies who can’t be bothered to use the cab road stopping to drop off a fare at the entrance to Mapham Street, preventing a couple of heavily-laden 521s with 100+ passengers getting to their official set-down point and blocking back onto York Road, thereby creating congestion on the IMAX roundabout.
    And then they drive off, past the “no vehicles except buses and lorries” sign. Are there ever police in evidence? Of course. Do they ever book the cabbies for obstruction or disobeying road signs? Only if a pig is flying past at the time.

  86. Anonymous says:

    If only kings cross could put up some signs to educate tourists how to use the multi lane system it would be great. Problem is tourists don’t get how to use it and form a disgruntled queue.

    This is why no Londoners use the rank and are forced to try and hail a cab on the road

    Please sort it out Kings Cross station / network rail

  87. Greg Tingey says:

    Maybe not the right thread for this, but Londonist have noted that TfL have noted that Cab regulation is in a mess to say the least.
    I would tend to agree, but also note that, judging by the way they drivae around here, at any rate, that even “licensed” mini-cab operators need a good reaming, as regards theor driving standards.

    Maybe time for an article on the state of play in this area?

  88. Well, anyone interested is can read the original report. I would love to write about taxis if only I had the time. Part of the difficulty is that, as with bikes, that one fears that the thing will descend into a moan about the standards of taxi drivers of observance of the rules of the road – relevant but not all-encompassing.

    I will only make the comment that I do think it is one area where TfL and the Mayor don’t appear to have fully got to grips with the issues. Another is the related one of pedicabs. Given that the Mayor is also responsible for policing there is really no reason why cycle, taxi, minicab and pedicab infringements cannot be tackled.

    By the way, since a pedicab is not a motor vehicle, the majority of offences caused by pedicabs violate the Metropolitan Police Act 1839. The relevant pieces of legislation were primarily intended to regulate the use of horses but is good law for prosecuting pedicab drivers. Not a lot of people know that, as Micheal Caine denies saying.

  89. IslandDweller says:

    “one area where TfL and the Mayor don’t appear to have fully got to grips with the issues”
    Have to concur with that. Nissan invested quite a lot of time and money in adapting their NV design, already used in Barcelona and NY. (Adapted with special front suspension to meet London turning circle / changed engine option from diesel to petrol at tfl behest / opened specialist showroom near canary Wharf). Nissan are so frustrated with tfl that they’ve written off their investment and walked away from London. No Nissan taxi for London. New showroom now deserted.

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