Black-Cab Drivers and idling engines at Kings Cross / St. Pancras

All of these waiting cabs and about 10 more behind me had their engines running this morning.  They advanced a few meters at a time.

Some time ago this point was already raised on Kings Cross Local  noting that black-cabs with running engines queued as far as Goods Way.

I would like to know if it is possible to manage advance of cabs better than meter by meter which require engines to be kept running.   Here is a suggestion:  If progress to the pick-up points would be in threes or fours, that is a cab advances every time three or four vehicles in front have moved, rather than the bumper to bumper advances we observe at the moment, it would allow the switching off of engines, and as a result a slight lowering of emissions. A little bit of paint on the roads creating painted queuing boxes for three or four cabs behind each other alongside the full queuing stretch either up to the German Gymnasium or up to Goods Way and a few signs explaining the system is all that would be needed.  Only in the last box where passengers are picked up running engines should be allowed.

Here is an illustration:

Goods Way/1234/1234/…../ 1234/1234/1234 /pick up point / Euston Road

During the air quality summit at Camden Town Hall last year it was highlighted that the emissions from black cabs constitute a high percentage of the overall traffic emissions.  Whilst changes on engine technology here are one issue, a little bit of management of the queuing system can achieve a lowering of emissions at Kings Cross / St Pancras at ease.

On the topic of idling engines London mayor Boris Johnson announced last year that he would introduce fines for keeping engines running (see Evening Standard here).

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18 Responses to Black-Cab Drivers and idling engines at Kings Cross / St. Pancras

  1. M@ says:

    I once spotted a kilometre-long queue at that rank:

    A cabbie pointed out to me that in cold weather (like right now) they’d have to keep their engines running in order to keep the heating running.

    • Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

      I have seen info otherwise that states that when you wait and keep the engine on low revs the radiator heating is negligible. Mostly petrol is wasted. Radiator heating as most car owners know works best when engine goes into higher revs as in normal driving. Is this not through for cabs?

  2. Stretton says:

    This is a constant issue. Its not only cabs that do this every morning as i walk to work there is atleast one bus idleing on york way.

  3. Susan says:

    the taxi rank on Midland Rd (the other side of St Pancras) is often just as bad.

    Camden council are now fining bus and coach drivers who leave their engine running for more than 4 mins when the vehicle is stationary :
    They should do fine taxis for this too.

  4. Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

    the trouble with the cabs is they move ever so slowly for insignificant progress. i think the suggestion with advances only every four cabs would not be as hostile to the small business owners cabbies are (we all know how protective they are of their trade) as fining would be. A little bit of organisation and a little bit of education are just more friendly than the batton.

    • Cllr Rupert Perry says:

      The reason cabs keep moving up the ranks is to give space to those joining. Unfortunately the authorities love catching cabs “overranking” ie being not quite on the rank. If you can’t get on a rank, then you have to keep driving. Empty cabs cruising around burning fuel cause as much pollution as cabs on ranks with their engine running. Most cabs in ranks switch off their engines when stationary. Hopefully all will.

  5. Clare Hill says:

    Thanks for highlighting this, it’s a good one to start taking on. The longest taxi rank in Europe is probably the last superlative that King’s Cross needs, although this distinction apparently belongs to London City Airport. But I’ve never been there, can anyone tell me if the housing density resembles KX in any way? On other apparent stats, I once heard that taxis in London are responsible for 30 per cent of the particulate in London’s air.

    • Cllr Rupert Perry says:

      The difference between city airport and kings cross ranks is that no one is walking by the rank at City Airport.

  6. Andy Elvers says:

    The REAL problem here is that London is still saddled with diesel Taxi’s when they could be petrol hybrids that are way cleaner air quality wise (lets ignore CO2 here as it doesn’t affect human health directly). For a start hybrids stop engines when idling automatically (unless they are warming up or the battery is low). They also run items lights, heating and air conditioning off the battery so the engine can still cut out if these are running.

    The difference in terms of NOX and particulates between diesels and petrol engines is huge. How TFL ever just concentrated on CO2 I’ll never know, the simple answer is that all diesels are bad – period. Even Euro 6 diesel (mandatory in 2015) still put out 3 to 4 times more of NOX and particulates than the equivalent petrol cars. Its a big disappointment to me that Boris’s new bus (which I saw on the Marylebone Road this morning) is diesel powered when other cities are using cleaner fuels like gas.

    And lets not start on Addison Lee who run 100’s of diesel Ford Galaxy’s when they could be running petrol hybrids. At least many others (like Green Tomato) now run the best mini cab for Londoners health – the Toyota Prius.

  7. joe fd says:

    Amen to the issue of buses idling in York Way – thankfully don’t have to walk that way any more.

  8. henderti says:

    Are the taxi marshalls at KX yet ?

    Under the Clean Air Fund initiative, Boris was given £5m to spend by Department for Transport to take additional measures to improve London air quality (and to convince Europe that something was happening and so avoid immediate infraction proceedings and maybe a big fine).
    £300K is to be spent in the year on taxi marshalls, mainly at big railway stations.

    From the minutes of the Clean Air Fund meetings :

    Clean Air Fund (CAF) Delivery Board Meeting
    22nd June 2011

    Taxi Marshalling
    Provisional start date of 11/07/11 for eco marshals at taxi ranks. This would commence with training including covering marshalling, eco driving and other related topics.

    Clean Air Fund (CAF) Delivery Board Meeting
    19th July 2011

    Taxi Marshalling
    The taxi marshals began work on 11/07/11 (initially undergoing training on the work required). Kulveer Ranger has requested a site visit with the CAF taxi marshals to see their activities at taxi ranks. John Mason (Director of Taxi & Private Hire) has agreed but requested that the marshals are given some time to settle into their new roles beforehand.
    ET commented that he provided a briefing to the taxi marshals on air quality issues.
    A press release explaining the work being undertaken by the taxi marshals and the No Engine Idling workstream is due for release w/c 25/07/11.

    Clean Air Fund (CAF) Delivery Board Meeting
    24th August 2011

    Taxi Marshalling

    All training for taxi marshals completed and deployment to London mainline station taxi ranks has begun.
    Largely positive feedback has been received from drivers and passengers to the marshalling activity.
    Reviews of taxi rank layouts will inform possible improvements (signage/layout).

    Clean Air Fund (CAF) Delivery Board Meeting
    20th October 2011

    Taxi Marshalling
    DC provided an update on progress made in the workstream:
    • The taxi eco-marshals have so far been deployed to mainline
    station taxi ranks due to the quantity of and demand for taxis at
    these locations, which provide the greatest potential benefit for
    marshalling activity.
    • Marshals have not yet been deployed at Paddington (due to an
    existing marshalling service) or Kings Cross (due to the ongoing
    construction works obstructing taxi rank operations).
    • Marshals’ shifts will be managed according to demand and may
    involve earlier starting/later finishing as required.
    • Success of the marshalling approach is being monitored and
    reviewed. For example, it was observed at one station that
    deploying three marshals simultaneously was much more
    effective than two.
    • The recent Evening Standard feature on the marshals was
    poorly received by the drivers but did not accurately reflect the
    work being done by the marshals.
    • DC reported that there has been a very positive response to the
    marshals has been (from taxi drivers, station managers and the
    • The marshals have already reported an observed change in
    driver behaviour and reported that the drivers see the benefits of
    the marshals (especially the service provided and improved rank
    • DC presented some illustrative graphs of observed idling at
    each station rank. It was observed that Paddington (which is
    being marshalled by a third party) had the highest level of idling.
    Action: DC to investigate asking third party marshals to try
    to discourage idling at Paddington.
    • KG asked why there may be low rates of idling at Charing Cross
    and other stations. DC replied that this is likely due to the layout
    of the ranks, and that some stations are less busy than others.
    • The mid-point data collection will begin w/c 31st October, where
    it is hoped to see a reduction in idling from the initial data
    • A review of rank layouts is almost complete and it is hoped that
    there will be recommendations for possible rank changes to
    improve performance.
    • A taxi driver eco-driving course has been prepared with the EST
    and will be offered to taxi and PHV drivers. IF asked if it is likely
    to be hard to sell the course to drivers. DC replied that it is
    hoped the course can be promoted based on the financial
    benefits to drivers. The course is short (90 minutes) and some
    drivers will have their course funded from the CAF. In addition,
    the standard EST course is already positively reported in the taxi
    • PM levels are being observed on ranks via a hand-held monitor,
    however this data will be used for general information purposes
    only rather than reporting pollution levels.
    • IF asked if there is a long-term funding model for the taxi
    marshalling. DC replied that TfL would like stations and large
    venues to have marshalled taxi ranks however there is a
    reluctance to fund this long-term. DC added that some stations
    do already have taxi marshals.

  9. This TFL Travel reminder (sent to all subscribers across London) coincidentally reached me today (pasted at end of text). This message needs to be pushed and pushed. Interestingly and I am not saying this to make English feel bad it is just the truth, I grew up with that message in Germany 30 years ago… Takes a long time to swim over the channel…
    On the matter of marshalls I have also TFL about CAF marshals following henderti’s message yesterday.

    I am writing to remind you that if you drive in London, leaving your engine idling unnecessarily can contribute significantly to local pollution levels.

    If you know you are going to be stationary for more than a minute, turning off your engine will reduce harmful emissions. This small change can have a big impact so please help by turning off your vehicle’s engine whilst parked or waiting at the roadside. By doing this we can all breathe cleaner air.

    We have updated our website with information relating to engine idling and improving air quality. For more information, please visit
    Yours sincerely,

    Keith Gardner,
    Strategy Director

  10. Cllr Rupert Perry says:

    The Taxi Chaos at Kings Cross will continue until the numerous road works and building works are sorted out. Currently cabs dropping people off at St Pancras cannot exit into Goodsway. The whole thing is a giant cul de sac which I avoid as much as possible. The cabs queue as do people wanting cabs. Today I picked up someone at St Pancras who at 10am had been waiting in a queue for 40 minutes to get a cab. This was partly due to the closure of the underground because there were too many people wanting to use it! Will this be sorted out by the Olympics. One can but hope.

  11. henderti says:

    I saw , while searching for something else (details for the proposed smog meter to be installed on the Euston Road) that the taxi management plan, requested as part of the permission for the development at KX, has appeared on the Camden Planning Application site. ( 2012/1227/P Kings Cross Operational Plan – Supporting Documents 12 March 2012 ).

    I note that it argues that full-time taxi marchalls are not required, but marshalls will operate a taxi-sharing service at peak periods (I wasn’t sure if this is just when queues get to a big enough level or whether it is at a fixed time 8am-10am).

    It wasn’t clear to me that this satisfies the original s106 agreement. Any thoughts ?

    Does the taxi-sharing work ?

    How is no-idling getting on with the new taxi rank ?

  12. henderti says:

    While searching for something else (details of the smog meter to be installed on the Euston Road) I noticed that the Camden Planning Applications site had received the Kings Cross Taxi Management Plan that was required as part of the permission for development.

    It can be seen as a supporting document associated with 2012/1227/P Kings Cross Operational Plan – Supporting Documents 12 March 2012.

    I noted that it does not allow for full-time taxi marshalls but someone will be there to operate taxi-sharing. It wasn’t clear to me when this would be deployed ( ? when the passenger queue gets big enough or routinely at peak periods 8 am -10 am).

    Is taxi-sharing working ?
    Has the operation of no-idling improved with the new arrangements in place ?

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  14. pilgrimbeart says:

    Daniel, I don’t know if you’re still monitoring these posts, but I have recently noticed huge amounts of diesel pollution being created by East Midlands trains warming-up/cooling-down – the engines run at I’d guess 50% and spew enormous amounts of diesel fumes into the passenger areas of Kings Cross. I’m trying to find people who are interested in renting some kit to measure this, I can’t imagine it’s actually legal.

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