People with disabilities and older people using Leeds train station will face “intolerable obstacles” if they wish to hail a taxi, as the current taxi rank is expected to be away from the platforms, the Unite union has warned.
The proposed row – scheduled for 2023 – is via steep steps or via an elevator, the union said.
Leeds City Council plans to pedestrianize Leeds Station and the surrounding area as part of a Â£ 39.5million investment program in the region.
Cars and buses will no longer be able to use New Station Street, meaning the taxi rank and bus stops will be relocated if plans go ahead.
Taxi services will then be relocated to Bishopgate Street.
Unite said Leeds City Council, Network Rail and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority all have “their fingerprints” on plans they strongly oppose.
A group of more than 20 activists and those involved in the station’s current taxi service gathered in unison in Millennium Square this afternoon to oppose the plans.
Speaking to YEP, many disabled members of the protest said they would be negatively affected by the planned changes.
Currently, the row is located in front of the main entrance to the station.
Activists believe the movement – which will be reached by “steep steps or a lift” – could have a huge impact on both the disabled community and the area’s taxi drivers.
Paul Landau – branch secretary, Unite the Union – told YEP the planned changes were a “vanity project” of the Leeds Council.
He said, “When you take off the sticky plaster [of the plans], you will notice that there is a lot going on underneath that will impact a lot of people.
âOur colleagues in the disability community are going to suffer.
“They say they will create steep steps down [to the relocated rank] and two high capacity elevators.
âThe problem with both is that when you have someone with autism using the elevators, that’s a no no, then you have the problem of steep stairs.
âPeople in wheelchairs would have serious problems if these elevators did not work.
âThe current location of the row is 45 m from the entrance.
âThe one proposed is 165m ahead.
“The problem we want to solve is that you don’t have to do this, there is an alternative.”
Paul said numerous surveys have shown that after Covid there will be a drop in passenger use.
He said an instant survey by Unite showed that 75% of people were not even familiar with the program.
Paul said the rank’s current location was “not perfect,” but if there was a choice, he urged the board to keep it where it is.
Tim McSharry is taped blind and was one of the activists for today’s protest.
He said he often uses the station taxi rank as it is part of the “key transport link” in Leeds.
Tim said: âTaxis are the preferred mode of transportation for people with disabilities after your own car.
âTaxi drivers are required by the government to provide a service to people with disabilities.
âThis plan essentially forces a trainer and horses to fulfill these obligations by putting them out of sight and unusable for many.
âEverything is on the same level for the moment and is working perfectly.
“The only way it could be easier was if it was on the curb side of the entrance.”
Tim said the plan discriminates “on the basis of disability” and said it was “too important” that the plans did not impact the disability community.
Mary Naylor is the President of the Leeds branch of the National Federation of the Blind.
She said activists “could not understand the logic” of what the council is proposing to do.
Mary added: âWhat has been proposed is that people come out of the bus station, get on the elevator to Bishopgate in an area where many don’t feel safe.
“Having to pass, queue, wait to get in the elevator to a different environment, we do not understand the logic.
“We want [the council] to examine it again.
“People will lose confidence in the use of rank if the plans go ahead.”
Ghulam Nabi was a taxi driver and marshal at the station taxi rank.
He joined activists against the new proposal alongside other taxi drivers.
He said the plans would affect “the station’s taxi supply”.
Ghulam said: âI told the board in the meetings that this would never work.
âThe supply will be tight.
âTaxi drivers will have to travel more kilometers to get to the row.
âIf we can’t get customers back fast enough, there are going to be lineups.
Members of the LCC AUAG & Disability Hub have already demonstrated in Millennium Square on Monday, July 19 to voice concerns about the accessibility of the plans.