Council defends Leeds Station revamp amid anger over taxi rank move
City councillors have traded blows over planned improvements around the front of Leeds Station, amid complaints from disabled groups and cab drivers.
Work on a £40m revamp will start in November this year and is expected to be completed by the summer of 2024.
The scheme, which is being done to help the station cope with rising numbers of passengers, will see New Station Street pedestrianised and the current taxi rank shifted onto Bishopgate Street below.
That plan has drawn anger from Unite, which represents Leeds’ hackney carriage drivers, with the union saying last year it will cost the trade business, as taxis will be out of sight from passengers leaving the station.
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Disabled rights campaigners Access and Use-Ability Group (AUAG) have criticised the plans too, with just two lifts providing the only step-free access to Bishopgate Street from the station front.
The current ramp which links the cab rank to the street below is being controversially done away with.
Speaking at a meeting of senior Leeds councillors on Wednesday, Conservative opposition group leader Andrew Carter said: “It’s not true to say everybody’s happy with this.
“In general terms I support the scheme, but you can’t brush under the carpet the concerns of disability groups and the people who help ensure the night-time economy of this city is properly served.
“I want to see a better arrangement for disabled people.”
The council’s ruling Labour group, however, insist that the decision to move the taxi rank was Network Rail’s.
The current rank, which has been criticised itself for being difficult for wheelchair users to access, is on Network Rail land.
Age Friendly Leeds, the Leeds Disabled People’s Organisation and the Carer’s Network have all backed the scheme, the meeting was told.
The council’s Labour leader James Lewis, said: “I don’t think anybody’s attempting to brush people’s concerns under the carpet.
“We’ve never said it’s a scheme without opposition and without its challenges.
“The existing taxi rank, which I know the trade would like to keep, is not in the council’s gift to maintain because it’s not on council land or on its highways network.”
The council’s executive member for infrastructure, Coun Helen Hayden, insisted that Network Rail would be held to its pledge to maintain the lifts, in response to concerns they may break down.
She admitted that the scheme is “not exactly how we would want it”, but added: “In very constrained and difficult circumstances this is a very accessible scheme.
“People can use lifts if they can’t walk down the street and the overcrowding around (the current) taxi rank is terrible now.”
The scheme will also include a 560 cycle-hub which will sit in the public area effectively underneath the station, with bike lanes set to be created on Neville Street and Dark Neville Street.