Taxi drivers will bring central London to a standstill on Wednesday in a bitter dispute over claims that the industry is being deregulated, raising safety concerns.
Thousands of black cabs and licensed taxi drivers will block roads in the capital, causing travel chaos for commuters, visitors and workers.
The row has flared over the introduction of a phone app allowing customers to book and track vehicles. Unions and groups representing taxi drivers are warning that the move is leading to unlicensed drivers being contacted via the new technology, with no checks on whether they are legitimate.
Legal action is being taken against Transport for London (TfL) but drivers are taking direct action, starting with Wednesday's protest.
Garrett Emmerson, Transport for London's chief operating officer for surface transport, said: "A number of taxi drivers are set to cause pointless disruption for Londoners over a legal issue that is down to the courts to decide upon.
"TfL will work with the Metropolitan Police to do all we can to keep central London moving. However, given the scale of the likely disruption, we would advise drivers to avoid the area if at all possible. There are lots of other ways to get around, including the Tube or walking, and we're asking cyclists to take extra care given the large number of vehicles expected to be involved."
Steve Garelick of the GMB union's professional drivers branch, said: "GMB members consider that the introduction of unregulated taxi drivers, ending criminal records checks, ending vehicle checks and ending local licensing will be a hammer blow to the taxi and private hire industry.
"There must be a obligation to keep trade to the groups who are paying for legitimate licences in their district.
"We have campaigned on uninsured and unlicensed operators and drivers for many years and we cannot ignore the facts that at present many individuals are slipping through the net."
Mick Cash, acting general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: "The attack on the professional licensed taxi trade by a combination of mayor Boris Johnson and wealthy global corporations seeking to maximise profits is nothing short of a scandal.
"We would urge the people of London to back their cabbies 100%. There will be serious disruption on Wednesday but that will be nothing compared to the disruption and dangers of allowing our licensed taxis to be driven from our streets through a combination of ignorance and greed."
10 alternatives to London’s tourist traps
Taxi drivers to bring London to a standstill
After years of craning our necks up, the View from the Shard is finally open for a spot of looking down on London. It’s sleek, stylish and does boast pretty incredible views. But for a fraction of the price (£3), you can stretch your legs and take in the town from the top of The Monument. Steeped in history, the building is bursting with character to be explored. Plus you get a rather charming certificate to prove you mastered the 311 steps. A short stroll away is the Heron Tower, where you can get a beer and a bar stool with just as good a view. Sorry Shardy.
It might miss the mark on exotic animals roaming around, but London’s city farms are free and fabulous. Head to Mudchute Farm in the east (riding the front seat of the DLR as you do), and spend a morning with sheep, donkeys, pigs and llamas, all with the backdrop of Canary Wharf overseeing proceedings. The café serves excellent hot and cold food, best washed down with a glass of homemade lemonade. Other farm locations in the capital include Vauxhall, Hackney and Kentish Town.
Every fancy hotel in London promises the best afternoon tea - seriously expensive scones and prim placemats guaranteed. For much more character (and just as good cake), head to the Secret Tea Room in Soho - above the Coach and Horses at 29 Greek Street (W1D 5DH). You take your seat via the washing up sink, and absolutely nothing matches. Which is all part of the charm. Afternoon tea from £17 per person, booking recommended.
The aromas of ostrich burgers and piles of cheese samples attract over four million visitors a year to Borough Market. A treat for the all the senses, yes, but this market does get jolly busy. Take a trip out of town to Greenwich and visit the roof-covered river side market for atmosphere, crafts, clothes and mouth-watering food to go. Watch the afternoon go by from the top of the hill.
A walk through Leicester Square or down Shaftsbury Avenue shows that chip shops in London are two a penny. But there’s nothing special about those ghastly Angus restaurants on every corner. Forget airs and graces and take a seat at the outdoor seating of Rock and Sole Plaice. Not only does the oldest London chippie get five stars for its epic punnery, but the fat chips, crispy batter and hearty mugs of tea make it a winning pit stop.
If you don’t fancy a dip in a lido or cold pond when the Great British Summer is in full swing (i.e, still a wee bit chilly), head to Oasis Sports Centre for a swim in the (heated!) outdoor pool. It’s blocked in by office and housing blocks, and the odd palm tree perched pool side gives it more than enough character. All for under £5 a swim.
Queuing around the block and a £15 entry fee? We do love a fish but a family day out with our scaly friends could easily top £100 if you head to London Aquarium. Never fear, there’s a little known gem in Dulwich called The Horniman Museum, with a £3 a pop aquarium, complete with star fish, sea horses and everyone’s favourite; the jellyfish.
Get your fix of the famous Abbey from the outside, then nip down the road to its less-famous cousin, Westminster Cathedral. Entry is free, and for £5 you can get the lift to the top of the tower for a view of the capital. Let us know if you also get the slightly dodgy tale from the guide about Will proposing to Kate at the top of the Tower…
The large yellow London duck which breezes along the Thames is a familiar sight in London and it's hugely popular with tourists. But you can get (almost) as close to the water - and thankfully stay a lot drier - with a ride on the Thames Clipper boat, all for the cost of a tube ride. Hop on board at Embankment and go all the way to Greenwich to get a real feel for the shape of the city. The snake of the river will surprise even the most hardened Londoner.
You might not get the recorded guide, but you certainly see the ‘real’ London with a ride aboard a public bus route, which naturally is cheaper than a tour bus. Buy a map and aim for the front seat of the double decker on route 211, Hammersmith to Waterloo. You will see everything from the Royal Albert Hall to the London Eye, without spending a small fortune. Choose a weekday after rush hour, around 10am for the best chance of the top seat. Bus 9 leaving from Piccadilly Circus (towards Kensington) is another fabulous route for the sights.