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Jun 28

UCG Meetings with LOCOG/ODA/TfL. PART 2

Questions for LOCOG / ODA / TfL

NOTE: UCG Questions in Black – All LOGOG / ODA / TFL Responses in RedUCG Response in Blue

1. Why will some lanes be operational from mid-July? We believe the reason for the games lanes was to ensure athletes, officials and the world’s media arrived at games venues on time, so why are the games lanes being implemented two weeks before any event takes place?

The ORN build and implementation timetable is as follows:

From Sunday 1 July: Marking out of Games lanes and other road markings begins. Variable Message Signs (VMS) along the route will clearly state to drivers that they may continue to use the road network as normal and are not restricted from using the lanes marked out with the Games symbols until operation of the ORN begins on 25 July. Adjustments will also be made to over 1,300 sets of traffic signals and the complete ban on all planned road works on A and B roads begins.

From Saturday 07 July: Reversal of traffic flow in Kingsway Tunnel (Aldwych). Traffic through the tunnel will temporarily flow southbound only through this link of the ORN which will be vital for assisting movement to and from the Media Hub in Bloomsbury. The temporary reversal will be removed in mid August after the Olympic Games, and is not required for the Paralympic Games.

From Monday 16 July: The Games Family – athletes, officials and the world’s media – will begin to arrive in London in significant numbers, resulting in increasing traffic, adding to congestion. As a result, the M4 Games Lane is due to come into operation from 16 July.

From Friday 20 July: The major, physical ORN build and implementation works, including installation of barriers to simplify junctions,will begin overnight on 20 July and will take four days.

From Tuesday 24 July: The designated standalone pedestrian crossings and parking/loading bays along the ORN will be suspended and blocked off overnight on 24 July.

From Wednesday 25 July: The ORN and the Games Lanes will be in operation and will be enforced from 0600hrs to 0000hrs daily.

The M4 Games Lane (the former M4 Bus Lane) was a decision taken by the Secretary of State. This will become operational from 16 July 2012 to transport Games family from the airport to central London as and when they arrive in the Country.

UCG: Response: Whilst the UCG understand that part of the Olympic bid contained assurances that officials, athletes and media would have access to games lanes to enable them to get to venues on time for events and training, we believe it is unacceptable that Londoners should have to be inconvenienced 2 weeks before the games start just so the Olympic family ‘elite’ can be whisked to their 5 star hotels in Mayfair.

 

2. Why are games lanes on the M4 in operation so early? Again these are supposed to be in operation to get the games family to events on time, not to their hotels, this will cause unnecessary congestion on the main route from Heathrow airport to Central London.

These are operational to accommodate Olympic officials arriving in the UK from 16 July and will be used to transport officials to their hotels in central London. Operation of the M4 Games Lane is ‘as required’ on the following dates:

16 July 2012 to 14 September 2012.

This specific Games Lane will be operated when a particular threshold is met and will be for Games Family, buses and taxis when in operation. When the threshold isn’t met then it will be open to all traffic.

UCG Response: The UCG welcome the decision to allow Taxis access to games lanes on the M4, however, we note that this section of the M4 is under the jurisdiction of the Highways agency, the same agency that failed so miserably with its enforcement of the now defunct M4 buslane. Will Addison Lee boss John Griffin advise his drivers to drive in the M4 lanes again?

We await further details from TfL as to whether Taxis are permitted to use the games lanes on the TfL controlled section of the A4, including the elevated section and the Hammersmith Flyover.

 

3. Are the Games lanes only in operation on the M4 or does this include the A4?

Operation of the A4 Games Lane is 0600-2000 on the following dates 25/07/2012 to 14/08/2012 and 27/08/2012 to 11/09/2012.

UCG Response: We await further clarification as to whether Taxis are permitted to use the games lanes on theTfL controlled section of the A4 (Elevated section & Hammersmith Flyover) and also the times of operation for the M4 games lanes.

Excluding Taxis from the A4 will result in Taxis and general traffic being forced from 3 lanes into 1, this will undoubtedly result in severe tailbacks on an already congested route. We also believe many ordinary motorists will be reluctant to let Taxis move into the one available lane easily having watched many Taxis pass them in the Games Lane.

 

4. The Get Ahead of the Games website has a route finder facility that advises motorists of suggested routes to follow to avoid the predicted congestion or hotspots in central London during Games time. The following is an example of the suggested route from Heathrow airport to Stratford Rail station on Saturday 28th July:

· Suggested route is 61.3 miles (normally 23.6 miles)

· Journey time is 2 hours, 18 minutes (normally 43 minutes)

· The fare calculation based on the suggested route is £215 (normally around £85 – £90)

Could you please advise:

· How this is justified to passengers?

· How this fits into the “greenest games” concept that has been so widely talked about?

The GAOTG website is primarily aimed at discouraging other road users (excluding taxis) from driving in Central London to help reduce traffic by up to 30%. The journey planner on the GAOTG website is hosted by the Department for Transport. The messages and the suggested routes are not aimed at taxi drivers.

Taxi drivers will be able to use the world famous knowledge to help them plan the best routes to get passengers to their destinations and we do not expect this will be through the use of the GAOTG website which is aimed at discouraging other motorists to drive in central London.

UCG Response: The UCG believe that the TfL messages being played out in the media advising the general public not to travel into Central London during the Olympics because of the expected increase in traffic congestion will discourage people from using Taxis as they will inevitably expect Taxi journeys to be more expensive than normal.

Taxi drivers will not be able to use the world famous Knowledge as it will become near on useless during the periods the games lanes are in operation, Taxi drivers will in effect become ordinary motorists and be forced into the other congested lanes and routes we would normally use to avoid traffic will be either closed, congested or occupied by games family vehicles.

A London Taxi makes, on average, 20 journeys a day. A proportion of these journeys will undoubtedly be passengers who would have otherwise used their own vehicles.

It is LOCOG and TfL’s responsibility to ensure that traffic flows as quickly as possible during games times to ensure a smooth traffic flow. We feel there is an opportunity to use London Taxi’s as part of the promotional material to discourage private vehicle use, whether visiting the games or going about their day to day activities. By allowing use of the games lanes this could help to keep fares at the lowest possible price whilst also contributing to the pollution problems that London faces.

It is our understanding that LOCOG have a Duty of Care to ensure the least possible pollution. Additional vehicles sat in heavy traffic and stop /starting will result in a disproportionate increase in pollution.

We feel strongly that if LOCOG allowed taxis full access to the Games Lanes it would help to reduce traffic congestion and pollution in London. This would help both visitors to the games and normal taxi users (many of whom have mobility impairments) to have a more pleasant experience and to not be put off by potentially significant increases in taxi fares.

As well as a reduction in the number of cars on the road, those that remain will have lower emissions because they are travelling more freely.

 

5. Taking into account all of the above, will LOCOG consider a change of heart and allow taxis into Games Lanes?

We understand the points raised.

There are a number of measures that have been put in place to help keep traffic moving around London:

The Travel Demand Management (TDM) work has been underway for over two years and TfL has worked with a large number of local businesses and freight etc. to help them change the way they will be working during the Games period. This includes encouraging businesses to allow staff alternative ways of working (such as working from home or adjusting start / finish times) through to working with the freight industry to alter delivery times to reduce the burden on London’s road.

UCG Response: We have been reliably informed that a well-known corporate bank based on Canary Wharf recently tested the concept of allowing staff members to work from home to avoid the expected traffic congestion during games time, as suggested by TfL. The banks remote access system was unable to cope with the workload placed upon it, therefore they have changed their policy and have requested their staff come into work as normal. We expect other companies may experience similar problems, therefore we believe that the predicted 30% reduction in traffic as a result of people working from home is a little hopeful to say the least.

There is a complete moratorium on roadworks taking place in the Capital which will commence on 1 July and end once the Paralympic Games are complete. Of course, this excludes any necessary unplanned emergency works such as to repair a gas leak etc.

UCG Response: The UCG welcomes the decision to introduce a complete moratorium on roadworks, however we fear this will not be enough on its own to prevent severe congestion on London’s streets. We also question whether this means all roadworks are cleared up and cones, signs & barriers are removed, or will it simply mean no work is carried out during the games period?

The phasing of up to 1300 traffic signals is being changed along the Olympic Route Network. All traffic on the ORN, whether Games Lanes or other lanes will experience the advantages of this re-phasing.

UCG Response: Again we welcome this decision; however we believe the re-phasing will make little difference if the streets are gridlocked.

The modelling that has been done suggests that up to 1300 games family vehicles an hour will be using the Games Lanes at busy periods.

UCG Response: We believe the figure of 1300 vehicles and hour in the games lanes is disingenuous and is designed to mislead. When you take into consideration that there are over 60 miles of designated games lanes, this equates to an average of one vehicle every three minutes. Although we are sure there will be sections of games lanes that will be busier than others.

Whenever possible, Games Lanes will be opened up to general traffic through the use of 150 Variable Messaging Signs (VMS) that will be situated along the Games Lanes network.

UCG Response: The UCG asked how decisions will be made around opening up the games lanes to general traffic, pointing out that it will be impossible to open and close the lanes intermittently when the flow of games family vehicles increase and decrease. We believe it will be impossible to monitor exactly where each games vehicle is at any point.

It is recognised that taxis are an essential part of London’s transport solution however it is just not possible to allow taxis, or any other type of vehicle bar from a small number of exceptions in nearside lanes, to use the Games Lanes network.

UCG Response: Well you could have fooled us! Taxis are clearly NOT an essential part of London’s transport solution in TfL’s eyes, otherwise we would have been granted access to the lanes, just like the Taxis were in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics games, a decision that made their games go more smoothly than most.

At a recent meeting with TfL, the UCG raised concerns regarding the proposed routes on the GAOTG website. TfL explained that the messages on this website aren’t necessarily directed at taxi drivers and that it was accepted that taxi drivers would use their Knowledge to calculate the best possible route for the passenger, taking road restrictions into account.

UCG Response: The UCG does not agree with this. Taxi driver’s Knowledge skills will be rendered virtually useless due to the significant disruption the Games Lanes will cause to the main routes and also to every possible alternative.

Exclusion from many key roads which will be occupied by games lanes, taxis will, in effect enjoy no benefits over the general public and we cannot see how anything other than the suggested routes would apply to all taxi journeys also. The vast majority of taxi driver’s work is impacted entirely upon the routes that the Games Lanes will be in operation. Many of our passengers will be alighting from taxis well before their destination has been reached, thus damaging the Taxi trade’s reputation, and adding extra pressure on a tube system that is already expected to be struggling.

Black Cabs were used as part of the bid that won London the Games, with even the 2 Olympic Mascots, Wenlock & Mandeville having Taxi ‘For Hire’ lights on their heads. We expect that this is partly because all London Taxis are wheelchair accessible.

Taxi drivers can legally refuse a fare that is in excess of the compellable distance (12 miles) or if the anticipated length of journey will take more than 1 hour. Whilst the UCG will not be advocating to its members to do this, it is very likely that some taxi drivers will because of the stress and hassle it will cause them and the passenger complaints, particularly if the fare is going in completely the opposite direction to the taxi driver as they will have a significant increase in journey time “empty” to get back to where they need to be.

The media are already running stories of disabled passengers being refused fares (it should be noted that the UCG condemns any driver that refuses a fare on these grounds) but this will no doubt be highlighted in the media. A recent C4 news item looked at accessibility of London Transport and as well as highlighting problems experienced on tubes and buses, they also covered taxis. It is clear that the media see London Taxis as part of an overall transport solution in London. It is also clear that when it suits them, LOCOG, the ODA and TfL see it the same way as they are very quick to “claim” 22,000 wheelchair accessible vehicles.

Many mobility impaired passengers have little choice but to use a Licensed Taxi or this is their preferred option for getting around.

 

6. Why shouldn’t they have the choice of doing this at the cheapest possible cost and in the most convenient way?

While we take on board the concerns raised, taking into account all of the points answered in Q5 it is just not possible to allow access to the Games Lanes for taxis.

UCG Response: No clear answer has been provided as to why mobility impaired passengers are clearly being discriminated against, the UCG will continue to lobby disability groups for support on this issue.

 

7. Apart from the ‘Games family’ what other road users will be able to use the Games Lanes?

The vast majority of the Games Lane network is on the offside and will be restricted to Games family vehicles and emergency vehicles only unless the VMS indicate they are open to all other traffic. There are a small number of Games Lanes that are on the nearside (see Q8 & 9)

UCG Response: There are 44 nearside games lanes, Taxis have access to only two of those, see question 9.

 

8. TfL has provided a list of nearside Games Lanes. It is noted and appreciated that taxis have access to Vauxhall Bridge Road and Gloucester Place Games Lanes. Can you please advise whether any other types of road user has access to these or any other games lanes (whether nearside or offside) in any of the lanes?

There are a small number of nearside Games Lanes and a comprehensive list of these lanes has been provided to the UCG. Of these, emergency vehicles with their lights on, TfL Buses, cyclists and motorcycles are allowed access to some.

As has been noted by the UCG, TfL has given concessions to taxis for some nearside Games Lanes. Taxis will be able to drop off/pickup from the kerbside at these locations, although this would not necessarily be encouraged. It is not possible to include taxis in any more nearside Games lanes for road safety and/or network capacity reasons.

Generally pedal cycles are permitted in nearly all nearside Games lanes as they have negligible impact on Games lane capacity and there area number of safety reasons for allowing this.

There a number of nearside Games lane which permit motorcycles but not taxis. The rationale for this is that these are currently sections of bus lanes which permit motorcycle use for road safety reasons. We have a good understanding of motorcycle flows in these areas and these flows are unlikely to change significantly at Games time and are manageable in terms of Games lane capacity.

A full breakdown of which road users have access to each of the nearside Games Lanes will be provided as soon as possible.

UCG Response: As mentioned in our response to question 8, there are 44 separate sections of the games lanes which will operate on the nearside (Kerbside). Many of the nearside games lanes are replacing the existing bus lanes. Taxis are excluded from 40 of the 44 nearside games lanes sections; however, Buses, Cycles and motorcycles do still have access to all.

 

9. What provisions are in place to allow Buses and Taxis to set down or pick up passengers from the kerbside for Games Lanes where access is not permitted to either type of vehicle?

There are no provisions to allow pick-up or set-down in any Games Lanes however we take on board the valid points raised at the meeting.

TfL will include messages on the GAOTG website to advise passengers that passengers are not permitted to pick-up from the kerbside where a Games Lane is in operation and advise passengers to hail a taxi where it is safe to do so. Taxi drivers are advised that when setting down passengers they should agree a mutually convenient place to stop that does not include entering the Games Lanes.

UCG Response: The advice offered for picking up and setting down mobility impaired passengers is completely unacceptable and we believe constitutes discrimination. An example was given where a passenger in a wheelchair is staying at 55 Park Lane and has asked to be dropped off there; however, due to the games lanes this is not possible. It was pointed out by a LOCOG official that the Taxi driver would have to drop off at the nearest available place away from the games lanes. When it was pointed out that this would be Piccadilly, the LOCOG official shrugged his shoulders in a “not my problem” manner. We would also like to point out that many Taxi passengers will not have seen the advice on the GAOTG website with regards to not hailing a taxi where games lanes exist.

We were advised that all bus stop contained within the nearside games lanes are to be re-sited, however buses will still have access to the lanes, along with cycles and motorcycles.

We questioned the logic behind this and received the following reply:

TfL Buses are permitted to access some of the nearside Games Lanes because buses run to a fixed route and timetable and have to cater to the needs of multiple passengers, particularly at peak times. Buses therefore need to stick as closely to the original route as possible and need access to some left hand turns that are banned for other road users (although some concessions have also been made for taxis in this regard where it has been possible).

UCG Response: So does this mean that Taxis will be allowed to use nearside & offside games lanes where we are permitted to use turns that we have been granted in these so called concessions?

 

10. Can you advise how passenger safety will be dealt with if they are trying to hail a taxi from a kerbside that is adjacent to a nearside Games Lane that a taxi is not permitted to enter? Whilst we are sure you will answer that the passenger will know not to do this we suggest you look at the situation at Kings Cross Station (Euston Rd) where taxis are not permitted to stop. Passengers will often run across a lane in order to secure a taxi.

See Q9.

UCG Response: TfL have referred us to their response to question 9, however we feel that by saying passengers will have read the GAOTG website and will be aware they can’t hail Taxis in the games lanes is quite frankly ridiculous and is an attempt to smooth over a very serious safety issue. Anybody who drives a Taxi for a living knows that the public pay absolutely no attention to road laws and will try and hail/ enter a Taxi wherever it is convenient for them, regardless of whether it is permitted by the road laws or not. Also we believe Taxi driver’s earnings will be seriously affected by these games and they will gladly stop for any hail, this is a recipe for disaster with Taxis stopping wherever they get hailed, and passengers crossing games lanes to enter Taxis in front of games vehicles being driven by volunteer amateurs, buses, motorbikes and cycles.

Only a few days ago a highly trained police motorcycle outrider hit and killed a pedestrian on the Southend Taxi Tour for Underprivileged Children. What chance a volunteer amateur?

 

11. Can you advise what you will be doing to help taxi drivers explain to passengers on board, particularly those with mobility impairments, that they cannot be dropped off exactly where they want and they will have to walk as the nearest legal set down point is some distance away from their destination?

See Q9.

UCG Response: Another referral to TfL’S inadequate answer to question 9. The UCG believe that TfL have a duty of care to passengers to advise of the restrictions being forced on Taxi drivers. We believe that TfL should send an official notice to all drivers for them to display on the partition of their cabs explaining the situation and clearly stating that the driver is not permitted to use the normal routes due to the Olympic Games lanes. The message should contain a complaints phone number and email address.

 

12. Can you advise what provisions are in place for cyclists for nearside games lanes?

Cyclists will have access to nearside Games Lanes for safety reasons.

UCG Response: This we understand, however, rickshaws are also classified as cycles,we have asked whether rickshaws will be permitted to use the nearside games lanes, and have asked whether the modellers have factored into their plans the inevitable hold ups that these unlicenced and unregistered menaces create.

We have received the following reply:

Pedicabs will not be permitted in any Games Lanes including nearside Games Lanes and a specialist police enforcement team will be in place to ensure that no road users, other than those permitted, will access any of the Lanes.

UCG Response: It is evident to us that until the UCG raised the issue of Pedicab’s access to games lanes, neither LOCOG/ODA or TfL had factored this into their plans. We believe that their decision to ban Pedicabs from games lanes is not based on safety or access, but has been decided to protect themselves from the wrath of the Taxi trade when they find out that every other bus lane user is still permitted access to the nearside games lanes except the Taxi trade. Pedicab’s access would be seen as the straw that broke the camal’s back.

What this decision effectively does though is make the lanes that Taxis and ordinary motorists can use even more congested with these menaces, and the UCG would prefer them to be allowed into games lanes if we are denied access.

 

13. At a recent meeting with TfL, John Mason committed to raise UCG concerns over enforcement with the relevant TfL team. Has this been done yet as no information has been provided on this issue.

UCG Response: We have received no reply to this question.

 

14. Can you confirm whether adjustments to traffic signals are applicable to all road users or will there be separate controls for the Games Lanes?

Traffic signals changes will apply to all lanes on the ORN and not just Games Lanes.

UCG Response: We feel this has been dressed up to sound like they are actually doing everyone a favour, but in reality it is logistically impossible to allow games lanes to have priority over normal lanes that are all moving in the same direction.

 

15. What contingency plans are in place should you fail to keep London moving?

All parts of TfL will be working closely with the London Boroughs, police, ODA and LOCOG to continuously monitor traffic movement in London. Where problems arise these will be assessed on a case by case basis and discussed with the relevant stakeholders before action is taken.

UCG Response: The UCG does not have much faith in TfL’s traffic management operations because all too often we see roads shut and the only viable alternatives also shut at the same time ie. The Embankment closed at the same time as The Strand. Co-ordination of roadworks doesn’t seem to be something that TfL have mastered yet.

LOCOG/ODA &TfL are convinced that traffic conditions during the games will not be a problem, however the UCG are convinced that they will be an absolute nightmare. The reality is that until these road restrictions come into effect, nobody actually knows. But given the traffic jams that we witness on a regular basis we are inclined to believe what we see with our own eyes rather than what a computer model is telling us.

On that basis LOCOG/ODA & TfL have agreed to meet with the UCG again on the 1st August, 1 week into the start of games lanes road restrictions (5 days into the start of the Olympic Games) to assess how the games lanes are affecting traffic conditions once the games are underway.

 

16. Will Games Lanes be opened up if a major incident takes place on any of the different modes of transport (i.e. tubes / trains etc.)?

This would very much depend on the type of incident and will be judged on a case by case basis.

UCG Response: It will be interesting to see how long it takes before TfL come cap in hand to the taxi trade to dig them out of a hole when the inevitable happens and the tube breaks down or a major incident takes place.

 

17. Are there any exceptions to the hours of operation to the lanes (0600hrs to 0000 hrs daily) where they will be in operation for longer?

Yes. Most Games Lanes will be in operation between 06:00-00:00 but some will operate at different hours. The list of nearside Games Lanes supplied shows the times of operation for those particular lanes.

There are some Games Lanes which are closed to all traffic throughout the day. These include:

Constitution Hill/Birdcage Walk – Closed from 25 July to 14 August inclusive with no access other than for Games family vehicles.

The Mall/Horse Guards Parade – Closed from 18 June to 30 September inclusive with no access other than for Games family vehicles.

UCG Response: TfL have promised to supply a comprehensive list of games lanes and their operation times, we have not received this to date.

 

18. Where taxi ranks are situated an unreasonable distance away from games venues, what provisions are in place for wheelchair passengers and the elderly?

As covered during the presentation, there will be marshals, ambassadors etc. to help these passengers. At venues such as Wembley there will be a shuttle service in place to transport passengers to the taxi ranks. In addition, at some other venues such as Greenwich park, marshals can call a taxi to a more convenient place to pick up a passenger if required.

UCG Response: Assurances have been given that marshals will be in place to escort passengers to the taxi ranks, this includes passengers with special needs.

We fully understand that security for the Olympics is paramount, and securing rank spaces in the immediate vicinty of venues is very difficult. However it remains to be seen whether some of these ranks work or not.

We were advised that PHV’s will not gain access to the PHV pick-up points without proof of a pre-booking and marshals will be in place to ensure this is the case.

 

UCG Summary:

Having taken into consideration all of the above answers from LOCOG/ODA & TfL, the UCG feel that the Licensed London Taxi trade, which is continuously voted the ‘world’s best’, has been treated appallingly by the Olympic Games organisers.

Our exclusion from the offside Games Lanes will seriously hamper our ability to navigate our way around this city, but being excluded from the nearside Games Lanes will actually prevent us from doing our jobs. This we think is totally unacceptable.

The fact that all of the regular bus lane users will be allowed to use the nearside Games Lanes and ONLY Taxis have been removed is victimisation and discrimination to both us and our passengers, many of whom are mobility impaired.

TfL have offered us access to the M4 bus lane, but this is nothing more than a token jesture and is very ‘generous’ of them considering this road does not even belong to TfL and falls under the jurisdiction of the Highways Agency!

LOCOG have agreed to our request of a meeting on the 1st August 2012 – 1 week into the games lanes operation to review the situation, however since we have learnt of our exclusion from the nearside games lanes we feel this is no longer as viable option, however this will be for you the members to decide.

We offered LOCOG/ODA & TfL the opportunity to reach a sensible compromise, but they have failed to take it.

The UCG strongly recommend that we should undertake a series of high profile demonstrations designed to draw the attention of the world’s media that will soon be descending on London.

Our Full Members have been Ballotted on our next course of action.

They have been given 3 options:

 

A) Accept what LOCOG/ODA/TfL have told us?

B) Attend the meeting with LOCOG/ODA/TfL on 1st August 2012 to re-assess the situation before deciding what action to take?

C) Immediately organise a series of demonstrations?

 

The Closing date for this ballot is Midnight on Sunday 1st July 2012

We will then inform the trade of the outcome.

Thank you.

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