TAXIS and cars are to be banned permanently from driving into Waverley Station amid terrorist fears ahead of the London Olympics, it emerged today.
The move, described as a “nightmare” and “out of proportion”, will mean no private vehicles will be allowed into the newly-refurbished station from July – meaning passengers will have to haul their luggage up the ramp and outside on to Waverley Bridge.
Rail bosses insist the ban is essential to comply with anti-terror guidelines in time for the Games and point out that Waverley is the last major station to still allow cars underneath the station roof.
There were fears today that the changes would cause “chaos”. To make matters worse, Haymarket Station’s taxi rank is set to close for the forseeable future as part of the tram works.
Les McVay, chairman of the Edinburgh Licensed Taxi Partnership said: “This couldn’t have happened at a worse time.
“Network Rail has always seen the taxi rank as a bit of a thorn in its side, but this is a nightmare.
“The council will have to come up with an alternative plan. There are only around five taxi spaces on Waverley Bridge and there are 14 million people travelling through the station every year.”
Network Rail, which runs Waverley, told taxi firms last week it would not renew hundreds of £800-a-year permits that allow taxis to operate in the station ahead of the move.
Mr McVay said: “With the closure of Waverley, Haymarket and the extensive tram works, it’s becoming a vicious circle.
“We can’t sit around [undesignated areas] as we get moved away, and we can’t just drive around the city centre, that would be an environmental issue. It could cause chaos.
“They have seen an opportunity on the back of the Olympics to play the terrorism card.”
A spokesman for Network Rail insisted the ban was necessary and alternative arrangements were being explored. He said: “To comply with security legislation, Network Rail has agreed to remove taxis and private vehicles from Edinburgh Waverley Station by the end of July 2012.
“Waverley is the last major station operated by Network Rail to allow private vehicles under the station roof and this has been designated as a security risk.
“Network Rail is required to comply with legislation to remove vehicles prior to the London Olympic Games. The order applies to major transport hubs across Britain.
“Network Rail has been working with Edinburgh City Council to examine options for an alternative location for a station taxi rank and drop off area.”
Councillor Eric Barry, who represented the Unite union at talks over the move, said the decision to ban traffic was “disappointing”. He said: “This decision makes it difficult for the elderly lugging their baggage. What about disabled access? I don’t think they’ve thought this through.
“They’ve brought up the usual issue of security, but if a terrorist wants to blow us up they’d find a way. Some of the measures are totally out of proportion to the security risk.”
He suggested that airport and tour buses could move from Waverley Bridge to St Andrew Square to create additional taxi rank space.
Councillor Rob Munn, convener of the council’s licensing sub committee, said various options were under consideration. Meanwhile, discussions are also under way to relocate the taxi rank at Haymarket, which is managed by ScotRail.
Not fare play
Jim Taylor, 59, who has been in the taxi trade for 20 years, said: “Have they thought how it will affect wheelchair users and disabled passengers? This proposal is discriminating against them and leaving them at a real disadvantage.
“Every taxi driver is vetted before a licence is granted so the security is already there. The whole thing is breath-taking. Banning cars is maybe fair enough but taxis have been security checked.”
Another taxi driver, Stuart Smith, 47, said: “I don’t pick up in Waverley so it won’t affect me like it will others.
“But if you are trying to provide a service you want to drop [passengers] off into the station. It doesn’t create a good impression to the general public.”