CARS and taxis are to be banned from one of Scotland’s biggest train stations to reduce the risk of an Olympic terrorist attack.
Bosses at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station have decided to permanently ban all private vehicles from the interior of the busy station by the end of July.
Network Rail said Waverley was the last of the major stations it operates to allow taxis and cars within the building and this “has been designated as a security risk”.
But taxis chiefs have branded the move a “nightmare” and “out of proportion”, warning there would be travel chaos.
A spokesman for Network Rail said the ban was essential “to comply with security legislation”.
He said: “Network rail has agreed to remove taxis and private vehicles for Edinburgh Waverley Station by the end of July 2012.
“Waverley is the last major station operated by Network Rail to allow private vehicles under the station roof and this has been designated as a security risk.
“Network Rail is required to comply with legislation to remove vehicles prior to the London Olympic Games. The order applies to all major transport hubs across Britain.
“Network Rail has been working with Edinburgh City Council to examine options for an alternative location for a station taxi rank and drop-off area.”
Cabbies must currently pay £800 a year to pick up in the station but Network Rail has said the permits will not be renewed.
Currently the rank and drop-off point lie between the main hub of the station, containing the departures boards and food shops, and five outlying platforms.
But with its removal travellers will be forced to drag their suitcases up the long steep ramps to the narrow and congested Waverley Bridge, where taxis compete for space with several tour buses.
Les McVay, chairman of the Edinburgh Licensed Taxi Partnership, said: “This couldn’t have happened at a worse time.
“Network Rail has always seen the taxi rank as a bit of a thorn in its side, but this is a nightmare.
“The council will have to come up with an alternative plan. There are only around
five taxi spaces on Waverley Bridge and there are 14 million people travelling through the station every year.
“With the closure of Waverley, Haymarket and the extensive tram works, it’s becoming a vicious circle.
“We can’t just sit around [in undesignated areas] as we get moved away, and we can’t just drive around the city centre, that would be an environmental issue. It would cause chaos.
“They have seen the opportunity on the back of the Olympics to play the terrorism card.”
Taxi driver Jim Taylor, 59, who has worked in the trade for 20 years, said banning cars was possibly fair but could see no reason for banning taxis.
He said: “Have they thought about how it will affect wheelchair users and disabled passengers? This proposal is discriminating against them and leaving them at a real disadvantage.
“Every taxi driver is vetted before a licence is granted so the security is already there. The whole thing is breathtaking. Banning cars is maybe fair enough but taxis have been security checked.”
Edinburgh city councillor Eric Barry, who represented the Unite union at talks regarding the move, called the ban “disappointing”.
He said: “This decision makes it difficult for the elderly lugging their baggage. What about disabled access? I don’t think they’ve thought this through.
“They’ve brought up the usual issue of security, but if a terrorist wants to blow us up they’d find a way. Some of the measures are totally out of proportion to the security risk.”
He suggested the tour buses move from Waverley Bridge to St Andrew Square to make more room for displaced taxis.