BLACK cab drivers have called for help to cope with the city's 'ridiculous' congestion which they fear will only get worse.
Cabbies warned traffic was hitting trade badly with passengers paying almost double for short journeys around the city as work on the Folly Bridge and around the Westgate Centre creates long queues through the city.
With the centre due to open next month, there are fears congestion will only worsen and the city's 107 black cab drivers have asked for Oxfordshire County Council to help.
Earlier this week, driver and city councillor Saj Malik even turned off the meter through guilt during one ride when the cost became three times its normal price.
Mr Malik told the Oxford Mail journeys from High Street to the station - typically costing £6 and taking seven or eight minutes - had risen to around £11 and was taking up to 45 minutes.
He said drivers relied on short journeys to make a living and feared students and professionals would soon ditch the cabs unless something was done.
He said: "Our trade is dependent on students who want quick and cheap journeys from A to B.
"We also take a lot of professionals who live near to the centre but want a cab after a long day at work - they will spend £5 or £6 for a short trip home each day but with that doubling it becomes too much and they will walk."
Mr Malik said he took a group of students from High Street to Harcourt Hill Campus earlier this week but had to stop the meter at £30 - still stuck in Botley Road - because he 'felt guilty' they would be charged so much for what would normally cost a maximum of £12.
The City of Oxford Licensed Taxicab Association (COLTA), along with Mr Malik, called for Oxfordshire County Council to overturn a ban on taxis using a new link road - built between Castle Street and Speedwell Street
Secretary of COLTA, Sajad Khan, said: "For our trade it's a nightmare - passengers are complaining there are no taxis at the ranks and also because the meter is running.
"It's taking 45 minutes to travel from High Street to the station - it's absolutely ridiculous.
"People just end up paying more and taking up more of their time sitting in a taxi.
He added: "We are dreading the opening of the new Westgate shopping centre, because of the restriction placed upon us to use the link route/bus gate we will be stuck in the normal traffic in Oxpens."
Parking charges at the new centre are set to be lower than council car parks sparking fears more motorists will be encouraged to drive into the city, clogging up the roads.
Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach have also warned bus journeys will be longer and congestion will worsen if a proposed Queen Street vehicle ban went ahead.
Mr Khan said it would mean journeys from the centre to Gloucester Green and the station would take 'minutes'.
But the county council has stuck firm on the ban after being made to reconsider it in November.
Council officers said allowing taxis would 'compromise the efficiencies of buses' which were permitted to use the link road and produce 'unacceptable' levels of pollution.
In response to the current congestion spokesman for the council, Martin Crabtree, said 'two exceptional pieces of work' - repairs to Folly Bridge and the Westgate development - were being done in the city at the moment.
He said: "The bridge repairs are essential and can really only be done at this time.
"Our team will be off the road by October 20 ahead of the Westgate reopening.
"The current phase of work on the Westgate also requires temporary traffic management to enable the necessary work to be done, and done in safety."