A PRIORITY taxi rank outside Haymarket station is facing the axe – to improve disabled access to the new-look hub.
The loss of three gilt-edged cab rank slots right outside the station would be a major blow to taxi drivers who feel they are being shunted away from the station’s main entrance.
The move, however, could provide a major fillip for disabled access campaigners if station bosses gift the golden spaces to them.
Network Rail chiefs are understood to be meeting today to discuss slashing the spaces.
Taxis have traditionally been given three spaces to legally park in front of the station, but there is no drop-off zone for general traffic, or the disabled.
Edinburgh Council wants a new stopping zone for two vehicles at the back of the taxi rank.
But Network Rail officials are expected to recommend the rank be scrapped to give those with disabilities easier access.
The rail network operator wants the problem fixed by middle of next month when Haymarket’s new concourse is due to open.
The station is being expanded to cope with a predicted 125 per cent increase in passenger numbers over the next 15 years.
But campaigners fear the Haymarket situation – coupled with a plan to stop cars from driving into Waverley station from next year – could make both of the city’s two main train stations highly inaccessible for anyone with mobility problems.
David Griffiths, chief executive of Scottish pro-disability charity Ecas, said good disabled access is essential for a modern capital city.
He said: “My basic concern is that we’re making it more complicated at both the main stations for the city – it’s a problem.
“It’s something that needs to be sorted out between Network Rail and the council.
“The city is really keen to encourage everyone to visit, whether they have mobility permits or not.
“We’ve got to make sure our transport network enables them to do that.”
The Mobility and Access Committee Scotland (MACS) has also written to Transport Scotland raising concerns over the lack of drop-off points at Haymarket.
The junction has been a problem spot since tram works finished last month.
Long queues of cabs trying to enter the Haymarket Terrace rank have led to a squeeze on road space, leaving cyclists to weave into traffic and across tram lines at an unsafe angle.
Daily bike crashes have been reported, with campaign group Spokes making a log of the tram line accidents.
Central Taxis director Tony Kenmuir said cabbies would agree with the rank directly outside Haymarket station being replaced by a general drop-off zone as long as enough alternate facilities were provided.
He has recommended creating 12 dedicated bays across two taxi ranks – one outside the Tune Hotel opposite the station and a second on nearby Dalry Road.
Increased demand with less money to spend
COUNCILLOR Lesley Hinds says: “Councils across Scotland are facing enormous financial pressures with an increased demand on services but less money available to spend.
“The council needs to save £36 million in 2014-15 so we have published our draft budget five months ahead of proposals being finalised so residents and key stakeholders can give us feedback.
“With a one billion pound budget it’s important the people of Edinburgh have their say on where the money should be spent.
“And we will listen to what people have to say – last year the responses from the public led to an extra £12m being invested on our roads, pavements and street lighting.
“The economic downturn has given us obvious challenges but we are committed to delivering high-quality public services that improve the lives of city residents, protecting frontline services and investing our money wisely in those core areas set out in the capital coalition pledges.
The full proposals are at www.edinburgh.gov.uk/budget.