Waverley’s vehicle ban proposals go off the rails

Plans to ban all vehicles from Waverley Station are to be put off until Christmas.

Station owner Network Rail had told the city council that it would close Waverley to all cars and taxis before July in order to deal with terrorist threats ahead of the London Olympics.

But council chiefs have confirmed that the ban has been put off until December to allow alternative arrangements to be made for the taxi rank.

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The announcement came after an emergency motion was lodged at a meeting of the city’s transport committee calling for urgent talks with rail chiefs to block plans for the closure.

Network Rail contacted the council last month to tell it of the proposed changes that would take effect from July.

The council has now been informed that extra time is likely to be available before the changes are enforced.

Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, the city’s transport leader, said: “Network Rail are not requiring us to remove taxis until the end of the year, which gives us more time to try to persuade them there could be a better way forward.

“We acknowledge that Network Rail have the power to stop vehicles coming into Waverley and the council cannot stop that, but we are keen to engage with them and see if we can find a better solution.”

Marshall Poulton, the council’s head of transport, said: “What has transpired is that they have identified that Waverley is one of the most vulnerable [stations] to a terrorist attack throughout the UK and, to that end, they want to get all vehicles, including taxis, out.”

He confirmed that Network Rail had written to Dave Anderson, the council’s director of city development, last month asking for its support in banning all vehicles by the end of July, but said that the council replied that it could not meet that date, adding: “We have now heard that the date of July may be moved to Christmas.”

Network Rail says Waverley is the only major station where private vehicles are allowed to drive under the roof.

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A company spokesman previously said the traffic ban had to happen before the Olympics, although that appears to no longer be the case. When asked if the reference to the Olympics was a “red herring”, Mr Poulton said: “Yes, that’s correct.”

Cllr Lesley Hinds, transport spokeswoman for Labour on the council, said: “I welcome that this now gives an opportunity for the council and other groups to be consulted on this proposal and for them to feed into ideas to make Waverley Station more accessible.”

Independent cab driver Rob Smith, from Kirkliston, said he was disappointed at the delay. He said: “I would like to see it closed permanently. Make it fair trade for all drivers.”

A spokesman for Edinburgh Licensed Taxi Partnership said: “The important thing is that we have taxi ranks working efficiently and effectively for station users and taxi users. We hope there will be genuine consultation and that we can find a solution that works for everybody.”

No-one from Network Rail was available to comment.