Shortage of black cabs during Olympics feared after fare snub

London: Flagging down a black cab on London`s streets may prove a little harder during this year`s Olympics after taxi drivers had a request to raise fares by 22 percent turned down Thursday.

Drivers are threatening to stay at home or go away during the Games in July and August fearful the city`s narrow roads will become log-jammed.

Cabbies, known for their strong opinions and jovial banter, are also angry they will be barred from using the 50 kms of Games Lanes specially designated to ferry athletes, officials, the media and VIPs to venues on time.

The Licensed Taxi Drivers` Association (LTDA) union said between 30 percent and 50 percent of its members did not intend to work during this period.

"There is a very real risk that there is going to be a shortage of cabs during the Olympics," Steve McNamara, LTDA general secretary, said. "Just give us access to the lanes. It`s easy."

London`s narrow roads get notoriously congested, and transport has been a major concern of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The LTDA, which represents up to 10,000 of the capital`s 25,000 black cabs, proposed allowing drivers to use weekend and night-time premium rates during the Olympics, to entice some back onto the roads.

That would have increased fares by between 13 percent and 22 percent.

But Transport for London (TfL), which argues "the vast majority" of drivers are against such a rise, turned down the suggestion.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson had previously described the proposal as a "major own goal" for taxi drivers.

Cabbies will be able to raise their fares by an above inflation 5.3 percent for the coming year though, reflecting the jump in costs for fuel and insurance, the TfL said.

Bureau Report