Phil Verster, managing director of the new Abellio ScotRail/Network Rail Alliance, told MSPs he agreed there was “room for improvement” on consultation; he admitted the current cycle access arrangements were “absurd”; and he promised to act over reopening one of the access ramps to make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to get into the station.
Appearing before Holyrood’s infrastructure committee, Mr Verster was initially defensive about Network Rail’s record.
He told the MSPs: “Over the past seven years, we have invested around £50m in Waverley. All those changes and what we implemented were consulted. The one bit that was not thoroughly consulted on was the quick decision on access of vehicles to the concourse area itself.”
But committee convener Jim Eadie, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Southern, told him the overwhelming evidence from other groups was that Network Rail had failed in its public duty to consult.
Mr Verster said: “I take the point very firmly that there is room for improvement and we will endeavour to do that.
“I can see if you start discussing at the delivery phase it’s too late, you need to be discussing it at the planning phase and that is what we are moving towards.”
Network Rail has been under fire over the closure of the two road access ramps from Waverley Bridge, leaving pedestrians, often with luggage, and cyclists having to share a narrow footpath to enter and exit the station.
Mr Eadie said it seemed absurd that there were plans for a Bike and Go scheme at Waverley, but cyclists would have to push their bike out of the station.
Mr Verster said: “I can only agree. I see a huge cycling opportunity at Waverley and I do see a change from where we are now.”
He said he did not want to commit to reopening the north ramp to cyclists as has been suggested, but promised: “We will come up with something.”
He said one option might be to use the south ramp.
On access for disabled people, he said there was step-free access and lifts at all entrances and an alternative arrangement to provide a sheltered area at the Calton Road drop-off was being examined.
“I know we are listening, I think we are making it better,” he said.
Mr Eadie told the Evening News he welcomed the change in tone and attitude from Network Rail.
He said: “It is very welcome that he accepts there was a lack of consultation with key stakeholders on the decision to ban vehicles from the station.”
He also welcomed Mr Verster’s willingness to update the committee regularly.
“We will definitely want him back in six months’ time to see what progress they have made and whether they have actually changed their ways,” he said.
“We now need to see action to mirror the warm words.”