A LEADING disabled charity has condemned the car ban at Waverley Station for making a “bad situation even worse” and slammed rail bosses for showing “complete indifference” to the needs of the elderly or infirm.
It comes weeks after Network Rail imposed a controversial vehicle ban within the station meaning disabled passengers must now make their way to taxi ranks on Market Street or Calton Road. Retail experts claim the new space created by the ban could provide a “golden opportunity” to transform the station into a shopping haven similar to major London terminals.
Today, Dr Sally Witcher chief executive of Inclusion Scotland – a consortium of organisations representing disabled people and disabled individuals – said Network Rail’s attitude to disabled and elderly passengers was “bordering on contempt” and could not “be allowed to go unchallenged”.
In a letter she wrote: “There have been rumours circulating for months that Network Rail wanted to close the station to vehicles and install retail units where vehicles used to go. It is the interests of passengers, not shoppers, that should surely come first, unfortunately Network Rail appears to have forgotten this.”
And Dr Witcher said: “It is not only people live in Edinburgh and the surrounding towns that are affected by these changes. Edinburgh Waverley is a major transport hub. Disabled people all over Scotland and well beyond may need to pass through it at some time or other.” But Network Rail said the station was “more accessible” than ever. Following the vehicle ban in May, Inclusion Scotland claims it has been inundated with complaints about the difficulties members face trying to access the station.
“Disabled people were already concerned about the station being inaccessible, but this ban has made a bad situation even worse,” added Dr Witcher.
Campaigner George Lamb, from Disability History Scotland, said the changes have added an extra half-hour to his journey time as he struggles to “negotiate the station”.
He said: “Network Rail has thrown away the notion of independence for those travelling with a disability. The signage is terrible within the station and the shelters outside are very bad. They have created all sorts of problems not just for disabled users but older people, those with heavy luggage or children in prams too.”
A Network Rail spokesman said there were no plans to introduce an extra retail element to the vacated taxi rank.
He said: “We are committed to retaining access for people with disabilities at Waverley. The station is more accessible now than at any time in the past with lifts and step-free access to and from Princes Street, Market Street and Calton Road. Free short-term parking for 30 minutes is available in New Street car park.”