Rail chiefs in U-turn over Waverley taxi ban
RAIL chiefs have backed down over a planned taxi ban at Edinburgh Waverley, the Evening News can reveal, in favour of an advanced anti-terror vetting system to screen vehicles.
Network Rail said it has come to a compromise with city leaders and disability groups and scaled back its decision that a ban would be instigated later this year.
Black cabs will instead be coded and scanned with numberplate recognition software at an initial barrier at the top of the station’s south ramp, according to early proposals suggested by the firm.
They will then undergo an identification check at a second barrier before being granted access to the station.
All other vehicles will be restricted from entering the main concourse, instead dropping off passengers on Market Street or using a new 30-minute free parking system in the New Street car park. Minibuses adapted for those with disabilities will also be granted access in the same manner as black cabs.
The new system will be introduced in January and rail chiefs are to consult with taxi associations over how drivers will be registered.
The 27-cab rank will be reduced, although an exact figure for the number of taxis allowed in the station is still to be worked out.
Network Rail has been in discussions with Edinburgh City Council over the plans after they refused to back down over opposition to the proposed scheme.
Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May to ask for an exception from the UK Government’s scheme to ban vehicles from all stations as part of a major security strategy.
Network Rail, which owns Waverley and operates the track network in Scotland, held a crunch meeting with transport leaders on Friday night, after which it was agreed that the compromise would mark a fair balance between security and accessibility for passengers.
Cllr Hinds said: “A 91-year-old constituent phoned me the night before our meeting, worried about what was going to happen to the station. He was worried about being able to get in and out of the station and feared he may not be able to use it to visit his family.
“Today I really feel we got it right and I’m sure that gentleman and others like him will be delighted at the arrangement we’ve come to.
“The proposed arrangements will make it far easier for everyone – residents and visitors – to get in and out of the station, including pedestrians, taxis, cars and cycles, as well as providing a more welcoming environment to visitors to Edinburgh.”
The agreement coincides with tomorrow’s official completion of the Waverley Steps improvement project, which has seen escalators and lifts installed to Princes Street.
David Simpson, Network Rail route managing director, Scotland, said: “Network Rail is in a difficult position of having to balance security concerns with passenger convenience.
“The status quo of letting open access for all vehicles into the station is no longer acceptable for a major transport hub, however, we’ve listened to a wide range of user groups and understand taxi pick-ups and drop-offs at Waverley are a benefit which would be sorely missed.
“That’s why we are pleased to have a proposal in place with Edinburgh City Council which will see a controlled number of taxis continue to use the station facilities.”
CITY CASH WON’T BE USED FOR CHANGES
NETWORK Rail will fund the drop-off and parking improvements in the streets around Waverley, it was announced today.
The firm will pay for changes to road layout with cash from the UK Department for Transport.
Previously, the city council had refused to use local taxpayers’ cash to pay for what it estimated as £995,000 worth of changes if vehicles were removed from the station for security reasons.
This included a nine-bay evening-only taxi rank on Waverley Bridge and a 16-bay rank on Market Street.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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