Humza Yousaf snubs disabled campaigners’ meeting request

Taxis outside Waverley Station on Market Street. Pic: Ian Georgeson
Taxis outside Waverley Station on Market Street. Pic: Ian Georgeson
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TRANSPORT minister Humza Yousaf has refused to meet disabled campaigners pressing for better access at Waverley station after rail bosses decided to put plans for a new taxi rank on hold.

Mr Yousaf did meet the campaigners and two city MSPs back in March to hear their concerns and he asked Network Rail to investigate new options “to make Waverley as accessible as possible”.

But in July the Evening News revealed the rail company had halted its plans for a taxi rank in the New Street car park because it wanted to explore “a number of potential longer-term initiatives” for that site.

Lothians Tory MSP Miles Briggs immediately wrote to Mr Yousaf, asking: “I wonder if you would be willing to meet with myself and other stakeholders to discuss this so that we can understand better the reasons for this situation and look at other options to improve taxi drop off and pick up arrangements?”

But in a letter, Mr Yousaf’s office told Mr Briggs: “Unfortunately due to diary pressures the Minister is unable to meet with you.”

Mr Briggs said the refusal to meet was “unacceptable”. “It is not good enough for him to attempt to wash his hands of this matter when at the meeting I arranged at Waverley in March he told local blind and disabled members of the city’s access panel that he believed the taxi rank proposal would provide a significant boost for vulnerable rail users and that he would retain a keen personal interest in Waverley station access arrangements and how these could be further improved.”

He said it was now more than two years since the Scottish Parliament’s infrastructure committee had investigated access at Waverley and concluded it was “essential that suitably located, accessible taxi facilities are available”.

“The Scottish Government has failed to take this forward and local disabled and blind travellers are understandably becoming increasingly fed up, frustrated and angry as a result,” Mr Briggs said.

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “The Minister is unable to meet the group due to prior diary commitments but fully appreciates their concerns about accessibility at Waverley Station from his meeting with them on March 16 this year. At the Minister’s request, Network Rail convened a further meeting on September 7 and they continue to work with the group. The Transport Minister is being kept updated by officials.”

Robin Wickes, vice-chair of Edinburgh Access Panel, said they still hoped a rank would be created at New Street car park in the “foreseeable future”.

He said: “It’s widely acknowledged that an accessible taxi rank is vital for disabled and elderly passengers.”

A Network Rail spokesman insisted a taxi rank at the New Street car park had not been ruled out as a long-term option.

He said: “We are still committed to improving access at Waverley and we are looking at our options and working with the council.”