Edinburgh’s ‘robot car park’ on fire

FIRE crews are tackling a blaze at Edinburgh’s robot car park - after one of the abandoned vehicles left inside caught fire during its removal.

Eight vehicles were found imprisoned in the former Autosafe SkyPark on Morrison Street for more than a decade when demolition crews began work to transform the facility into a purpose-built office block last month.

The fire broke out this morning. Image and video from David Hickey

The fire broke out this morning. Image and video from David Hickey

READ MORE: Cars found trapped in Edinburgh’s ‘robot car park’ 15 years on

The company handling the project, GCM Services, pledged to save the cars - thought to include models such as the Austin Maestro - successfully removing six of them last week.

However, plans to retrieve the final two appear to have gone up in smoke after dramatic video footage captured a Fiat Uno set ablaze.

A spokesman said: “The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is currently in attendance at reports of vehicles on fire within a derelict car park at Morrison Street, Edinburgh.

Picture; Lisa Ferguson

Picture; Lisa Ferguson

“Operations Control mobilised two appliances after the alarm was raised at 11.09am on Wednesday, February 7.

“There are no casualties.

“Crews will remain in attendance until the area is made safe.”

The 600-space facility was dubbed Britain’s ‘most technologically advanced car park’ when it opened in 2001, but closed its doors two years later after the company that owned it went into receivership.

It was rumoured at the time that administrators had simply arrived one day to lock the doors, leaving dozens of cars trapped inside.

But the urban myth which passed into Edinburgh legend appeared to be confirmed last month when Reddit user ieya404 snapped images from a building opposite the site showing a ‘time capsule’ containing vehicles which look to be models from the late nineties.

The company responsible for a project to turn the building into a new £30m purpose-built office block, Hermes Real Estate, confirmed the vehicles had been in the building for almost 15 years, though it was later discovered the cars were in fact bought by the owners as a way of testing the automated system.

At the time of its construction, the £5million project was seen as the future of multi-storey parking, taking its design from similar facilities in Beijing, Sydney and Tokyo.

Motorists would drive in and be directed to one of four brightly-coloured bays at the entrance of the building.

Sensors then scanned the cars to gauge their dimensions and ensured they were unoccupied before automatically transporting them to the nearest space via lifts, turntables and “robot shuttles”.

When drivers returned they inserted their parking ticket into a pay machine which automatically signalled for the car to be retrieved.

The vehicle was then presented and ready to drive away within three minutes at an exit onto the West Approach Road.

The facility lay empty for over a decade, during which time it became a popular haunt for illegal raves.

Work to turn the site into a new 122,000 sq ft office development by Glasgow-based BAM properties on behalf of Hermes Real Estate got underway in October last year.

Part of the development will include a smaller underground car park with space for around 200 vehicles.