Could this be central London's longest taxi rank? The chain of cabs starting between Kings Cross and St Pancras stretched almost a kilometre at lunchtime today. The queue extended beyond the designated rank on Pancras Road, turned East along Goods Way towards the new Guardian HQ at Kings Place, before sinuating back towards Kings Cross via York Way.
A walk along this route is not one for the faint of lung. Despite going nowhere fast (many of the drivers were reading), few vehicles had their engines turned off and the air was thick with emissions. This at a time when Goods Way is enjoying increased pedestrian traffic thanks to the arrival of the Guardian and the recent demolition of the footbridge in Kings Cross station. The adjacent Camley Street Natural Park now sits under a decidedly unnatural cloud.
So why do cabbies wait in line so long, and why not switch off their engines? We asked our favourite cabbie for some insight:
If I join a rank that I can see isn't going to move quickly I always get the engine off pronto. I join the ranks in order to save diesel, not keep burning it! Perhaps it's as simple as it being so cold and them all wanting to keep the heaters going, black cabs are notoriously difficult to warm up, especially the old Fairways. Not good for the environment I know, but drivers don't really have any other option. As for getting off the ranks and looking for street work, I think the short answer is that general street work is always very thin on the ground at this time of year. Like anything in the cab trade there is a big divide between those that rank up and those that don't, and both sides can't see the benefits of the other!
We've also written to the Public Carriage Office to see what they have to say on the matter. We'll keep you posted on any developments.