TRANSPORT Minister Humza Yousaf has done a U-turn and agreed to meet disabled campaigners over rail bosses’ decision to halt plans for a new taxi rank near Waverley Station.
In July Network Rail suspended the move to create a new pick-up point in New Street car park because of work planned by the council nearby and “a number of potential longer-term initiatives” for the site.
Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs asked for a meeting with Mr Yousaf, who had met MSPs and the Edinburgh access panel earlier in the year when the rank was expected to go ahead. But Mr Yousaf’s office wrote back saying: “Unfortunately due to diary pressures the Minister is unable to meet with you.”
However, questioned in the Scottish Parliament by Mr Briggs, the Minister said he was “more than happy” to meet him and the access panel.
Mr Yousaf said the rank was not going ahead as planned because significant remedial work was required to North Bridge and that access would be from New Street.
“I am disappointed, just as Miles Briggs is,” he said. “I understand the anger and frustration, but I am sure he will agree the safety of passengers is paramount.
“The station is managed by Network Rail. Alongside the city council, it has complete responsibility for the remedial works that are going on in the station. I do not have a ministerial magic wand.” There have been complaints about the difficulties faced by disabled and older people getting in and out of Waverley ever since taxis and other vehicles were banned in 2014.
Mr Briggs said he welcomed the Minister’s U-turn. He said: “I will take this forward, but it’s a shame it took a public question in the chamber of the parliament to achieve this. Local blind and disabled rail users are very clear that the Minister should be putting as much pressure as possible on Network Rail to consider all options as a matter of urgency to improve access arrangements, including looking at alternative locations for a taxi rank.”
Robin Wickes, chair of the access panel, said: “We look forward to meeting the Minister in due course and going through our requirements again with him. We’re very disappointed at the lack of progress on taxi provision.”
Edinburgh Eastern SNP MSP Ash Denham said she had met Network Rail officials.
“They remain committed to working with the disabled access group to make improvements to Waverley Station, which is precisely what the Minister has instructed.
“I know how angry and frustrated many disabled campaigners are. In walking through Waverley, it is clear that more can be done. This is something everyone agrees on, including Minister Yousaf as well as Mr Briggs.”