Access to Waverley Station: Network Rail replies

Steve Montgomery, ScotRail’s managing director, and David Simpson, Network Rail’s route managing director, wrote:

“Thank you for your patience. We are committed to giving more people than ever before the opportunity to travel by rail.”

Unless they’re old. Or have a disability that makes stairs difficult. Or have small children. Or need to travel with heavy luggage.

On 16th April I wrote:

Network Rail want to ban coaches, cars, and taxis from Waverley Station. They’ve come up with a range of excuses why this is a good idea, but I’m pretty certain the real reason is that if they get rid of the taxi rank at the south side of the station, they can have a new row of stalls or shops there.

Waverley Station Shops Waverley Station Shops Waverley Station Shops

Every taxi licenced to pick up passengers in Waverley Station has to pay Network Rail £800 a year. That’s a lot of money for the concession – but it’s nothing to what the ground rent from shops would bring in. The plans for a ban have been postponed (apparently the Olympics story was a lie) but not cancelled.

Response from Network Rail at TwitLonger on 20th April

Thanks very much for your tweet. We agree that access to and from Edinburgh Waverley station isn’t ideal at the moment. The work we’re undertaking there will address this issue. Once all the work is complete there will be step-free access. For example – our Waverley Steps redevelopment will provide step-free access to all the platforms and likewise, the station renewal programme will create a new Market Street entrance. You’ll find out more about the improvements here: – Waverley Station

The Department for Transport (DfT) has indentified a security risk caused by allowing private vehicles to enter the station. The only way to mitigate the risk was to remove private vehicle access at Edinburgh Waverley altogether. We acknowledge that this change, if it was implemented now, would cause problems, and so have agreed with the DfT and City of Edinburgh City Council that this won’t happen until the station access work mentioned above is completed.

I hope this all helps. I’m sorry that the current situation is less than perfect, but be reassured that we are working as fast as we can to resolve the issue.

[Update – the UK Department for Transport say “Thank you for your enquiry. Transport is a devolved policy area in Scotland so this is an issue for the Scottish Government to respond to and I have transferred your email to them.” (Transport Scotland@transcotland)]

Edinburgh Central MSP Marco Biagi has

urged Network Rail to reconsider its plans for pedestrian and cycle access to the new Haymarket Station at a meeting of community representatives this week. Concerns were also raised by Sustrans, Transform Scotland and Spokes, the Lothian Cycle Campaign.

A report by thinktank report Just Economics, released in February this year:

“Our research puts figures on what anyone who has been to France or Spain already knows – the UK’s railways are poor value for money. Instead of profitability being the primary measure of success, the wider benefits of the railway need greater consideration. The government should act decisively and make an objective and transparent assessment of the best way to organise Britain’s railways so as to maximise social, environmental and economic value.”

David Simpson claims that in plans for Waverley Station, Network Rail was looking to restore “common sense”.

There are four exits from Waverley, to north, south, east, and west: all but one involves stairs. (Flickr set)

The plan to ban cars and taxis from Waverley Station – probably the only city-centre station and major hub in the UK that was built in a narrow, steep-sided valley – will simply ensure that people for whom access by stair is difficult, must leave the train at Haymarket, where lifts from each platform to the overhead bridge could and have been built. This isn’t acceptable: why should a major station in the UK be a restricted zone?

Network Rail has handwaved the cost to Edinburgh of moving the station’s taxi-rank to the streets outside the station, but Edinburgh Council estimates that the cost of the move could be as high as £1M (and, I have to say, you know what the council are like about estimates – it’ll probably turn out to be more like £5M).

When the plans emerged in February, it was claimed they were part of a nationwide security clampdown in the run-up to the Olympics. However, it later emerged that Network Rail had agreed to put off the introduction of the measures while it discussed the provision of new taxi ranks outside the station with the council. Council transport leader Lesley Hinds said:
“We are not prepared to foot the bill to accommodate measures we don’t believe are justified in the first place. Although Network Rail has said they will look into security financial assistance for the council there are absolutely no guarantees and we do not think it is acceptable that taxpayers should foot the bill for this.”

A spokesman for Network Rail said they hadn’t yet discussed the council’s requirements for new taxi ranks but Network Rail

did not recognise the figures produced by the council. [The spokesman] said
“The project will consider contributing to the cost of works directly related to the removal of vehicles from Waverley.

Very big of them, since the removal of the taxi rank from Waverley will enable Network Rail to put in a new row of shops and cafes where the taxi rank was, and the ground rent from those will be hugely profitable, so what do they care if Waverley Station thereby becomes an inaccessible nightmare?

The plan Network Rail have in mind, from the construction work I saw in Waverley, is a lift from Princes Street down to the connecting bridge, from which it will be possible, rather indirectly, to get a lift to the main concourse or to the platforms below.

If the plans for pedestrianising Princes Street come through, then it won’t be possible to have a taxi rank just by the lift – people will have to walk from North Bridge or from Waverley Bridge.

Whereas if the ramps down to the station from Waverley Bridge stay open, it will be possible to get a taxi to Waverley Bridge or down into the station, or if you are in a chair or using crutches but otherwise mobile, to get in or out via the pedestrian ramp.

Scotsman, 19th April:

In a wide-ranging debate, business owners themselves demanded action to relax parking restrictions to allow commercial deliveries, boost city shopping and cut red tape. They also urged city leaders to promote the Capital to residents and not just tourists.

Green party candidate Chas Booth, who raised the issue of pedestrianisation, said the move would allow businesses to “flourish”.

Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie, representing the SNP, added: “There should be an area of Princes Street that is pedestrianised. “Visitors to the city get little chance to sit and enjoy the city centre.”

How can it be acceptable for Network Rail to decide by fiat that the central station in Edinburgh, one of the major hubs on the east coast railway line, shall be made inaccessible to the elderly and the disabled?

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