A CRACKDOWN has been launched against cab drivers making illegal turns at a “dangerous” Oxford junction.

Licensing bosses caught almost a third of Oxford’s black cabs making illegal turns at the Carfax junction during a special operation.

Oxford City Council officers spotted 33 of the city’s 107 Hackney carriages driving from High Street on to Carfax to access the Queen Street taxi rank across one weekend.

They are supposed to travel down St Aldate’s, along Speedwell Street and up Castle Street to rejoin Queen Street and queue at the rank.

Last night their illegal actions were described as dangerous. Council spokesman Christopher Lee said: “On 48 occasions over the weekend of October 12 and 13 our taxi marshals recorded black cabs that carried on directly from High Street on to Carfax to access the nearby taxi rank.

“To do this they crossed the road markings by the traffic lights that are in place to prevent vehicles from driving in this manner.

“Not only is this manoeuvre illegal, this action presents a danger to passing pedestrians and other motorists, and causes an obstruction to traffic following the black cabs as they wait to do this U-turn.”

The checks were carried out by marshals between 11pm and 4am on both nights.

Mr Lee added: “We became aware of the problem during our standard night time licensing enforcement operation and felt it needed further attention.”

Richard Mann, of cyclist group Cyclox, said sudden and unexpected manoeuvres were likely to cause an accident.

He said: “It’s clearly a dangerous thing to be doing, especially late at night when people are walking around after a drink or two.

“I support the council on this and I hope they can work with taxi drivers to work out a safer way of doing this. Maybe the rank needs to be moved slightly?”

Pedestrian campaigner Sushila Dhall said: “It’s highly dangerous for pedestrians because you don’t expect them to make the move. It’s not against the rules for no reason, and they should tighten up their behaviour.”

Mr Lee said the authority had referred the issue to the City of Oxford Licensed Taxicab Association (Colta) so they could advise their members.

He added: “If the problem continues and drivers are caught we will take our own enforcement action. This will be taken in line with our policy on the relevance of warnings, cautions and convictions. “It is a traffic offence and if witnessed by the police could lead to prosecution and fines.

“The drivers have a responsibility to uphold the conditions of their licence, and to represent their profession and city, in the best light.”

Oxfordshire County Council figures show there have been four accidents between vehicles and pedestrians which resulted in injury at the junction since January 2010.

But black cab driver and Oxford city councillor Saj Malik said he didn’t know it was against the rules to make the turn.

He said: “There is no sign up, and this has been a tradition for years and years.

“If they want to stop us doing U-turns into Carfax then the public will have to wait for longer and that will lead to drunken anti-social behaviour problems.”

No one representing Colta was available to comment last night.