Taxi drivers and disabled campaigners came together to protest a council plan to move the taxi rank further away from the entrance to Leeds Station.
As part of a £40m revamp of the Leeds Station area, earmarked for completion in 2023, New Station Street is set to be pedestrianised all the way to Boar Lane.
This would mean moving the taxi rank at the station entrance down onto Bishopgate, in front of the Scarborough Hotel.
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While the plan includes provision for two passenger lifts and “wider, safer steps” to help elderly and disabled passengers reach the new taxi rank, protesters outside Civic Hall argued they had been excluded.
“For many people passenger lifts are inaccessible,” explained Tim McSharry from Access and Use-Ability Group (AUAG).
“Whether it’s due to autism or guide dogs – a lot of guide dogs don’t like using passenger lifts – and the lifts can also brake.”
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The AUAG wants to bring Leeds City Council, Network Rail and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority back to the table to find a workable solution.
Tim hoped for an amendment to the plan which will, “enable wheelchair access to taxis out on New Station Street and also keeps the step-free access for the taxi rank on New Station Street.”
He added: “We believe no public funding should ever be spent on a scheme that excludes people or treats them so they can’t use that service anymore.
“We’re hoping logic and common sense will win out.”
Taxi drivers are not happy about the proposals either.
Currently, there is space for 33 cars at the New Station Street taxi rank, while the new rank on Bishopgate will have room for just six.
Drivers waiting to join the rank will need to queue on Sovereign Street, around the back of the station, but the Leeds branch chairman of Unite the Union, Vasim Akhtar, said this will not work.
Vasim said: “What happens when a London train arrives and you’ve got 100 people there, or on a Leeds United matchday outside The Scarborough Hotel, or on a Friday or Saturday night.
“When those taxis are called from Sovereign Street they’re going to have to negotiate through traffic, through the general public. How long is that going to take?
“People are going to try steal taxis, it’s going to cause fights.
“Are people going to feel secure? Are young girls on a night out going to feel secure? You don’t want to be heading under the arches waiting for a taxi, you want to be next to the station.
“It’s not going to work for disabled people, it’s not going to work for people with young children, it’s not going to work for young girls on a night out, it’s not going to work for taxi drivers.”
A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “The proposals are to make New Station Street pedestrian-friendly, safer and traffic-free. As part of this, LCC, WYCA and Network Rail developed proposals and LCC gained planning permission to relocate the taxi-rank to Bishopgate Street.
“The proposed move means that people will no longer have to cross a busy road to access the taxi rank, and with the number of people using Leeds Station expected to rise significantly over the coming years it will also make it easier for people to travel to and from the station using what is already a very busy street.
“Throughout this we’ve worked with representatives from disabled access groups across the city to discuss the proposals and helped shape the design to address their needs.
“This includes Network Rail’s Built Environment Accessibility Panel, an independent group of experts who were in support of the proposals to relocate the taxi rank to Bishopgate.
“At the request of Leeds City Council’s Access and Useability Group (AUAG), we explored alternative options for the location of the taxi rank but unfortunately these were not feasible.
“We will continue to consider any proposals or suggestions to enhance the design further, as we finalise our scheme.”
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