Tower Bridge brought to grinding halt by minicab drivers’ mass protest over Congestion Charge
PUBLISHED: 16:22 28 July 2020 | UPDATED: 22:51 28 July 2020
Minicab drivers blocked Tower Bridge in a two-hour demo this-afternoon protesting at the Mayor of London’s new £15 daily Congestion Charge which has also been extended to 10pm and weekends.
They blocked the bridge with their cars which led to traffic snarl-ups tailing back onto Tower Hill and backing up to Aldgate and Whitechapel.
The demo follows legal action the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain has been taking against the Mayor of London over TfL’s hiked daily charges.
It was staged as close as they could get to the pedestrianised space around City Hall, with some drivers staying in their vehicles and joining a ‘virtual’ online rally and others running a spaced picket by the Tower of London.
“The increase is devastating for us,” minicab driver Alper Ali said. “This is on top of Covid-19 which destroyed most of our business.”
The union lost its legal action in the High Court last year on grounds of discrimination because minicab drivers were being charged while black cabs were except, but has since gone to the Appeal Court and is currently awaiting judgement.
A similar legal move has begun by two motoring organisations whose lawyers fired a warning shot at City Hall about taking court action.
The joint legal action by FairFuelUK and the Alliance of British Drivers gave the Mayor until July 24 to respond. The organisations are now deciding the next move.
Their legal counsel Shaheen Mamun claimed: “The mayor has been unlawful using ‘temporary emergency powers’ with no ending date. We’re asking on what grounds these measures were introduced.”
Drivers were encouraged to use vehicles rather than crowd onto public transport during the coronavirus emergency, the organisations point out, but were now “being used to fill TfL’s £1bn budget hole”.
TfL insisted it was responding to “exceptional and urgent circumstances” with higher charges that were “only temporary”.
But the lawyers challenge whether this meant extending charges to 10pm and weekends, hitting businesses, the taxi trade and tourism, as well as the East End’s night economy.
The minicab drivers in today’s Tower Bridge mass protest who use hybrid electric-petrol engines claim discrimination because cabbies using diesel black taxis are exempt. The union is calling for minicab exemption to be restored and has proposed alternatives to deal with congestion including limiting driver licenses.
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