DRIVERS and passengers are both set to steer clear of the new cab rank for Waverley station because it’s in the wrong place and will mean higher fares for many, the boss of one of the city’s biggest cab firms warned today.
The rank, due to open in autumn next year, is to be built in the New Street car park next door to the station, offering a covered waiting place for passengers to be picked up by taxis, but no drop-off point. It follows the decision to ban taxis from the station itself in 2014.
But Tony Kenmuir, director of Central Taxis, said most taxis leaving New Street would have to drive around the perimeter of the station, racking up fares of up to £5, before they got anywhere.
He predicted passengers would find it easier, quicker and cheaper to leave by other entrances and hail a cab.
And with no drop-off point at New Street and taxis likely to face charges from Network Rail for using the new rank, he said drivers were unlikely to take their empty cabs round there when they could pick up passengers in the street.
“I don’t see why the public would go to that rank and I can’t see why drivers would go to it either,” he said.
“People who use Waverley regularly will still walk out at Waverley Steps, East Market Street or Waverley Bridge, knowing they can get a taxi drive away quickly.
“And taxi drivers are likely to hang about there waiting for a fare rather than drive empty round to New Street, which is dead mileage, to join a rank you have to pay for.”
Mr Kenmuir said the new rank was on the wrong side of the station for accessing most parts of the city.
“If you’re going north, south or west you have to drive round the station to get anywhere,” he said.
“When you come out of New Street car park you can turn left and left again into Calton Road which takes you to the top of Leith Street and you can only turn left, so you’ll often end up passing Waverley Steps and the passenger will think ‘Why didn’t I just come out this way and hail a taxi here?’.
“Or you could turn right and right again along Market Street and back across Waverley Bridge, so you’re driving past two other entrances where passengers could have come out and saved themselves money.
“Or you can turn right and go up to the Royal Mile, where you’re almost right on the traffic lights at St Mary’s Street, which is very congested. It’s difficult enough for one vehicle to get out there, so just imagine if you have 20 or 30 taxis coming from a busy train.”
He said taxis had previously been charged around £1500 a year to pick up passengers at Waverley and drivers had been told there would be a charge for using the New Street rank to recoup the cost of building it.
But he said: “It was Network Rail’s choice to move us out of the station. What they have done is open up the possibility of working at the station to the entire taxi trade without any of us paying. If they now try to make us pay again, my view is that horse has bolted.”
Mr Kenmuir said the best solution was to allow taxis back into Waverley on the same basis as before.
“When they banned taxis from the station it was supposed to be on security grounds,” he said. “But although the entrance to the new rank is from New Street, it will only be a few yards from where the rank used to be – just the other side of a railway line. What happened to the bomb risk?”
Network Rail has said work to extend platforms 5 and 6 into the site of the former taxi rank will begin in spring next year.
Mr Kenmuir said: “We want to work with them to provide a service to the public – we don’t want to be awkward and we appreciate there is always a conflict for space in trying to accommodate everything.
“But as soon as the idea of moving us to New Street was proposed I thought that was the least practical place to put us.”
Tam Bruce, a taxi driver for 15 years, said the new rank was “a waste of time” and predicted the expected charge would deter taxis from using it.
“No taxi driver in their right mind will use that rank,” he said. “Why should we be asked to pay to pick up passengers? We’re doing them a service by bringing people to the station.
“And the council will not allow you to put the extra cost onto the passenger.
“Ninety-nine per cent of drivers will not use the new rank – they will just go back to picking people up at Waverley Bridge or Market Street.”
Lothian Conservative MSP Miles Briggs said he was not surprised at the taxi drivers’ reaction and called on Network Rail to look at the plans again.
“I don’t see the rationale in just having a pick-up and not a drop-off point,” he said. “If you have a fare going to the station surely you should be able to drop them off and pick someone up at the same time.
“They say there is no space, but having seen it with my own eyes I think there would be.”
A Network Rail spokesman said: “No decision has been made at this time regarding a charging policy for the new facility.
“The new rank is being provided to increase the range of options available to passengers, it will be up to taxi drivers themselves to decide whether they wish to use it.”