Plans to move Lancaster’s main taxi rank from the bus station to Dalton Square have come under fire.
The rank will be moved by Lancaster City Council in February 2013 while United Utilities builds a new underwater storm water tank to help prevent sewage spilling into the River Lune.
The work will last from 12-14 months but Hackney carriage drivers say the Damside Street site will not be fully accessible for two years and claim that Dalton Square is an unsuitable alternative location.
Andy Kay, chairman of the Lancaster City Hackney Proprietors Association, whose drivers this week parked up at the site of the proposed rank to demonstrate potential difficulties, said: “This is pretty much going to destroy what we do for a living for two years.
“Being outside the traffic gyratory it will take people who are infirm or disabled out of the equation, we won’t see them.
“You mention it to customers and they say ‘I can’t get up there’.”
Some bus stops will move from the bus station during the work, but Mr Kay added that the new rank would be disconnected from stops that remained, affecting the likes of elderly people from rural areas who sometimes catch a taxi after getting off the bus.
He said that when drivers had previously asked to locate an additional rank in Dalton Square, the council had said it would be unsafe because revellers might dart across the one-way road to reach it.
Mr Kay added: “It will also be dangerous to have people getting in and out of the taxis close to parked cars and it will be a very narrow space for people to driving between the vehicles.”
Ann Hayhurst, from Rowlands Pharmacy, said: “It’s a silly idea, I don’t think there is room there.
“There are parking bays used by disabled people, some of whom come into the pharmacy.
“If they cannot park they are not going to come in.
“The council needs to re-think this.”
Emily Glass, from Dalton Square Florist, said: “It is not going to be great for us if this inconveniences people who want to park in the square.
“I just hope it brings a few more people over to this side of town.”
Becky Yates, assistant manager at Joe and Cass, said: “I think the square is too small for a taxi rank although I don’t think it will have a big impact on our business.
“It will probably cause more congestion having the taxis joining the one-way system there, it is already a busy junction.”
Mum of four, Tracy Jones, from Bowerham, who catches taxis from the bus station rank with her shopping, was among taxi passengers opposed to the move.
“People start at the top of town and work their way down to the bus station,” she said. “You would not want to walk up to Dalton Square with your pushchairs if you had been to Sainsbury’s or the Co-Op.”
Another taxi user, Jodie McEvoy, of Westgate, Morecambe, added: “It’s handy having the taxi rank at the bus station, because if you miss the bus you can get a taxi.”
Wheelchair user Graeme Ellis, 54, who works at One Voice Disability Services in Lancaster, said many disabled people would ring for a taxi, but added that Dalton Square was far from an ideal location for the rank.
“It will be difficult for wheelchair access to taxis because of the cobbles and the difficulty in using a ramp there.”
A Lancaster City Council spokesman said Dalton Square had been the only option considered deemed suitable by highways authority Lancashire County Council.
Although county has not proposed to remove any parking spaces, the spokesman added that the situation would be monitored.
City council chief executive, Mark Cullinan, said: “Talks have taken place between the city council as licensing authority and the county council to identify a suitable location which takes into account the needs of not only the taxi trade but also customers, pedestrians and to ensure highway safety.
“Dalton Square is the most suitable location taking into account all of the factors.
“Members of the local Hackney taxi trade have been kept informed during the process to identify a temporary rank and have been offered the opportunity to personally discuss any issues it may raise.”