Fears over new taxi rank spark city centre protest

Taxi drivers with some of their disabled customers and  helpers at the proposed taxi rank in Dalton Square.

Taxi drivers with some of their disabled customers and helpers at the proposed taxi rank in Dalton Square.

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Disabled and elderly people are protesting against plans to relocate the city’s taxi rank amid fears that the new site will be riddled with hazards.

The protestors claim the new temporary rank in Dalton Square will be “dangerous” and “impractical”.

Lancaster City Council is moving the rank from the bus station in April to enable United Utilities to build an underwater storm water tank, which will help prevent sewage spilling into the River Lune.

Barbara Walker, an elderly wheelchair user from Morecambe who was protesting in Dalton Square on Tuesday, said: “It’s not just wheelchairs - it’s people with walking sticks and walking frames as well.

“Because the kerb is so high, my sister finds it very difficult to push my chair onto the pavement.”

Mrs Walker said at the end of the day she would typically catch a taxi from outside the bus station, but the relocation to Dalton Square made visiting the city impractical due to the distance from the station.

She added that steep slopes and the uneven surface of the cobbled street where the taxis would be forced to park would also cause problems.

A care worker from Morecambe agreed, adding that the move was a ridiculous idea and would be hazardous for the elderly and infirm.

John Aldred, a taxi driver with more than 20 years’ experience, said he had health and safety concerns: “The decision to move the taxi rank here was reckless and dangerous.

“The taxi drivers here have a lot of experience behind them. All we ask is that the council listens to what we have to say.”

One taxi driver, who did not wish to be named, said: “The taxis are being put out of the boundary line of the city centre, and there is a real danger to disabled people, mums with prams, and elderly people.

“Access for the disabled is through the side of the vehicle, so effectively this will block the road in Dalton Square.

“Also, disabled people cannot even get their wheelchairs over the cobbles without it causing them pain.

“We also believe that the city council has not undertaken a risk assessment.”

Andy Ashcroft, highways manager at Lancashire County Council, said: “Lancashire County Council was asked to assist United Utilities and the city council to find an alternative site for the taxi rank to accommodate the works.

“Dalton Square is the best available temporary alternative location for the rank and has been assessed in terms of its accessibility from the city centre for all potential taxi users, and has been used safely for buses before.

“The rank has good access from the city centre using pavements with dropped kerbs and pedestrian crossings at Brock Street to the south and Great John Street to the north.

“There is no need for anyone who wants to use the rank to cross the cobbles on Dalton Square if taxis use the footway to let people on and off.”

While ultimately road safety falls under the county councils duty of care, the Dalton Square taxi rank forms part of United Utilities accommodation work for the larger UID scheme and if any safety concerns become apparent it would be the responsibility of UU to address these in the first instance.

Dalton Square will also be used for buses in the later phases of United Utilities works when the bus station taxi rank is reopened.