Although I adore London and love my job, life as a London cabbie can often be deeply frustrating and truly exasperating– usually thanks in no small part to the design and configuration of certain roads, junctions and systems within the capital’s sprawl.
This occasional new category within my blog will aim to highlight some of the London’s most punishing offenders.
And please forgive me if I appear to be moaning. This is simply a way of venting stress before my heart conks out…
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Concert Hall Approach
As a cabbie you’ll often find passengers flagging you down outside the Southbank’s Royal Festival Hall– it is one of London’s major cultural venues after all.
And in many cases those passengers will ask for a destination north of the Thames- which is fair enough; Waterloo Bridge looms close by and looks like an easy hop.
Peer at any map and you’ll see that Concert Hall Approach appears to offer the best route; a quick left turn out and you’re on the bridge.
Only it’s never, ever a quick left turn because the traffic lights at the end of Concert Hall Approach are ferociously timed.
When they’re on a red signal– which they always are- you may as well reach for a copy of War and Peace; you’ll find time to polish off several chapters. I’ve been known to sprout stubble whilst waiting at this light.
If you happen to find yourself stuck behind another unfortunate whilst waiting for Concert Hall Approach’s lights to change, nine times out of ten that driver will decide that the lights are not working and will inevitably nudge their vehicle through the red light.
Dangerous yes, but understandable if you’ve never experienced the phasing before. It’s that bad. And the only way to work around it? Drive under the bridge and tackle the IMAX roundabout- which also has lights to contend with.
Concert Hall Approach. The traffic lights that time forgot.
Deep beneath Waterloo station and just 800ft from the London Eye runs Leake Street; a disused road tunnel which is now a designated legal graffiti area.
Last open to traffic when Waterloo was home to the Eurostar terminal (more of which in the next and final part of this history on the station), Leake Street’s status as a graffiti hotspot originated in May 2008 when renowned street artist, Banksy arranged the ‘Cans Festival’; an exhibition featuring murals and art installations.
In his own words, the secretive artist expressed his wish that the project would “transform a dark forgotten filth pit into an oasis of beautiful art… I’ve always felt anyone with a paint can should have as much say in how our cities look as architects and ad men.”
Today, Leake Street continues to provide street artists with a vast, urban canvas.
Due to the nature of the style, the artwork changes frequently so repeated visits are well rewarded.
Images from my own recent visit can be viewed below.