London's black cabs joined the truck drivers in yesterday's protest of tax increases announced Friday. The new budget raises the tax on diesel fuel, making it among the most expensive in the world — the equivalent of more than $4 per U.S. gallon.
The British trucking industry says the tax makes it extremely difficult to compete with truckers from other European countries, which have lower taxes but can truck in Britain. Many trucking companies are expected to go out of business or to move operations out of England.
The protest was organized by Trans-Action. It received the support of the National Farmers Union and the United Road Transport Union. The Road Haulage Assn., which did not lend its support to an earlier protest in London on March 23, urged its members to protest in a law-abiding fashion. The Freight Transport Assn., however, did not support the protest.
According to European newspaper reports, there were reports of severe delays over a wide swath of roads around Park Lane, where an estimated 250 truck drivers congregated. However, Scotland Yard reported that traffic was only "slightly slower." Predictions that London would be paralyzed proved unfounded. At least one lane in each direction remained open in Park Lane, largely due to a high-tech urban traffic control system.
However, major roads into London were disrupted during the early morning rush hour, when convoys of trucks blocked all lanes of motorways driving at slow speeds, trapping commuters behind a rolling blockade. Reports say that by 8:30 a.m., 1,500 trucks had converged on the city.
In addition to London, trucks protested in Manchester, Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Truro and Exeter.
Last month, about 1,400 truckers caused severe congestion in a protest around Park Lane in central London.