Mar 3 2010 by Judith Tonner, Airdrie & Coatbridge
AIRDRIE’S taxi drivers are disappointed that the redevelopment of the town’s railway station does not include an official rank.
The town’s cabbies have been battling for more than 30 years to be given a designated space to pick up passengers alighting from trains.
However, although the station is to be revamped for the reopening of the Airdrie to Bathgate line, no such rank provision has been made.
Now Peter Gunn, the chairman of Airdrie Taxis and North Lanarkshire taxi trade association, has written to Network Rail and North Lanarkshire Council asking them to rethink
He said: “The only reason we got to see the plans is that one of the drivers lives close to the station and got them that way. It looks as through there are new pedestrian entrances and exits to Weavers Way as well as the existing ramp to Broomknoll Street.
“There is an absolute need for a rank at Airdrie and it’s very disappointing as we would have thought that we could have been consulted as part of the major upgrade.
“Police have given us a dispensation to rank unofficially on Broomknoll Street at its junction with Victoria Place, but sitting there is far from ideal and if the police chief was to change his mind we couldn’t sit there any more.
“If you go down to the station on any week night at 5.30pm, the number of people getting into taxis at that point is phenomenal.
“Everybody is in agreement that an official rank would be much safer for drivers, passengers and the motoring public.
“We’ve been appealing for years to get a rank – Airdrie is probably the only major station of its size in Britain which doesn’t have one.
“Previously, we’ve been told that having a stance on Broomknoll Street or Weavers Way would cost too much but it would have made a lot of sense to do it as part of this revamp, but nobody at Network Rail or the council seems to have thought of it.”
His letter to Network Rail states: “We note with great dismay that there would appear to be no provision for a rank. Despite countless promises to provide facilities, nothing has ever materialised, and it is even more disappointing that the best opportunity to date is being ignored.
“The local taxi trade would relish the opportunity to provide a service, legally, to rail users – all that is required is for Network Rail and partners to take the opportunity provided by reconstruction to find the space somewhere in the plans.”
However, the rail organisation say that they do not operate the land surrounding Airdrie station and have stressed that there is no possibility of including a taxi rank in the work.
They add that it could be considered at a later date – if a body such as Scotrail, Strathclyde Passenger Transport or North Lanarkshire Council was to request and fund the scheme.
Council officials, meanwhile, say they have written to Network Rail to open a dialogue on the views expressed by local taxi drivers, and will begin to investigate providing a rank at Weavers Way.
A spokesman for Network Rail said: “Our works at Airdrie station are confined to the live railway, where we are building an additional platform and associated structures.
“These works do not involve making any changes to the existing station building, road layout or parking facilities, none of which are operated by us.
“Works on the Airdrie to Bathgate project were planned several years ago and it is too late now to add new elements to the scheme.
“If the station operator, regional transport partnership or local authority felt a taxi rank was required at Airdrie, and propose to fund one, it is something we could discuss, but not as part of the current project.
“Any questions taxi drivers have regarding the local road network would be better addressed to the road authority.”
June Murray, the head of legal services at North Lanarkshire Council, said: “We have been approached by taxi owners in Airdrie about the lack of a rank in the proposals to refurbish the railway station.
“As a result, have written to Network Rail on behalf of the taxi trade to raise these concerns and to ask their views on the prospect of a rank there.
“Network Rail would need to give permission for a rank to be located on its land, and if this was agreed, a statutory procedure must be carried out to consult with the public, Strathclyde Police and the council’s roads department on the suitability of any location.”
A council spokesperson further added: “We were not aware of the suggestion of a rank at Weavers Way but will now pass this to our roads team to consider the suitability of the site.”