Tuesday 13 August 2019 1:00 am

Axe to grind: Taxi drivers slam 'PR gimmick' as City launches car-free days

Taxi drivers have slammed plans to close off key locations in the City of London to traffic during the summer, saying they amount to a “PR gimmick”.

Key City hotspots, including St Mary Axe and Chancery Lane, will be closed for days in August and September to allow workers to enjoy traffic-free lunch breaks, the City of London Corporation announced today.

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The Corporation will close off St Mary Axe – which hosts the Gherkin, Cheesegrater and the Baltic Exchange – to cars and taxis on 13-15 August, while Chancery Lane will be closed from 3-5 September from 10.30am to 3pm.

The closures are to allow activities, music and food to take place.

Alastair Moss, chair of the planning and transportation committee, said: “The Square Mile is renowned for its bustling streets. As the UK’s leading financial district, it will continue to be a magnet for residents, workers and tourists in the coming years.

“Our ‘Lunchtime Streets’ offers us an opportunity to reimagine what the City’s streets and public realm may look like in the future. The continued growth of the Square Mile’s working population – and the forthcoming Elizabeth Line – makes it all the more important that we are innovative when it comes to making use of space.

“With vibrant activities, music and food, ’Lunchtime Streets’ provides a glimpse into what the City’s future looks like – with safer, healthier, people-friendly streets for everyone to enjoy.”

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said: “While the taxi trade agrees strongly with the need to tackle London’s toxic air, one off stunts like car-free days won’t do much to cut pollution in the long-term.

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“Instead of PR gimmicks, the City of London Corporation should make a real contribution to improving air quality by installing more rapid charge points for the 2000 London cabbies who are out picking up passengers in zero emissions capable taxis.

“There are currently only two rapid charge points available to cabbies within the richest Square Mile in the world. This is totally absurd and we need to see many more installed to encourage more cabbies to make the switch to electric.”