DISABLED passengers say the proposed revamp of Waverley station is “a good step in the right direction” but have emphasised their top priority is getting taxis as close to the trains as possible.
Rail bosses last week unveiled long-term proposals costing hundreds of millions of pounds which include a new concourse on a mezzanine floor above the platforms and a main street-level entrance from Waverley Bridge.
Plans for taxi access are yet to be firmed up, but one idea was to build up the level of land in the New Street car park to create a drive-in taxi rank straight off the street.
Robin Wickes, vice-chair of the Edinburgh Access Panel, which campaigns for easier disabled access to Waverley, said: “It’s good to see they are being so ambitious. At long last it seems something is being done. We’re not there yet but this is a good step in the right direction.”
He said the access panel had been closely consulted on the plans and they were encouraged by the resources being put into the project and the co-operation between Network Rail and the city council.
He praised the plan for the main entrance at Waverley Bridge and backed the idea of a mezzanine floor with lifts and escalators to the platforms “provided the means of getting down are safe and effective”.
He said: “At the moment there are single lifts going down to some of the platforms, they’re often full and people don’t give priority to disabled people.”
Mr Wickes said the panel had discussed the idea of a street-level taxi rank in Market Street with Network Rail. “Our number one issue is the need to make taxi services more accessible,” he said. “We would like to see a consolidated rank for pick-up and drop-off as close to the trains as reasonably possible.”
He said the panel would like to see the ramps from Waverley Bridge used by taxis – but these are likely to disappear as part of the revamp.
He also said the Calton Road entrance, currently a rather remote part of the station, could become a more attractive option for a taxi rank. “They are planning for that end of the station to become a more important cog in the machine. There will be a lot more traffic coming and going.”
Heritage groups have voiced “deep concern” at the revamp, saying it would effectively involve full demolition of the current A-listed station.
But Mr Wickes said: “The key criteria is functionality. What is the point of protecting the heritage of the station if the station doesn’t work? They need to get their priorities right. But the more we can do to protect the historical infrastructure the happier the heritage people will be.”