It was a remarkable sight. On the M2 motorway through Kent at the weekend, a convoy of vehicles stretching for three miles was heading towards Dover, on route to a destination of Disneyland.
It comprised some 100 traditional London black taxis – although a few were other colours – driven by cabbies giving up their weekend and forfeiting a few days of fares in a very good cause.
This was the Magical Taxi Tour, an annual event now in its 22nd year. Organised by the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers, and supported by black cab manufacturer The London Taxi Company, it takes sick and disabled children with life-threatening illnesses to Disneyland for a memorable weekend of fun.
There are lots of others who muck in to make it a very special event for the children. Channel crossings are donated by P&O Ferries, the AA sends breakdown vehicles with the convoy in case their support is needed, and ambulances carrying doctors and other medics from the hospitals which treat the children also accompany them.
The convoy is guided on its route to Paris and back by City of London police in fast response vehicles, with motorcycle outriders to seal junctions and smooth the trip, and also by French gendarmes who travel to London to join the convoy and take charge of traffic control when it is on their side of the Channel.
The Magical Taxi Tour was first organised in 1994, to give some very sick children a break from gruelling treatment and therapy by taking them on a three-day break to the French Disneyland Resort. Transport is always provided by licenced London Taxis. A parent or carer, and a sibling or friend, accompanies each child, and the cabbies help look after them.
Since the event started over two decades ago, 2,200 taxis have taken almost 4,400 children to Disneyland, clocking well over half a million miles. The convoy has always completed the trip, despite encountering a few problems over the years, including a channel tunnel fire, a blockade of Calais by fishermen, another by lorry drivers and a fuel crisis.
The families would not be able to undertake such a trip alone, and can only do so with medical support travelling with them. So well done the cabbies and everyone else involved for giving them a once in a lifetime trip they’ll never forget.