Welwyn Garden City taxi rank changes 'nonsensical', say critics
PUBLISHED: 10:34 20 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:34 20 December 2018
Danny Loo Photography 2017
The GMB Union and Labour Party have written to Welwyn Hatfield Council criticising a decision to move the taxi rank from outside the Howard Centre in Welwyn Garden City.
The removal of the rank, which has served the community for 45 years will hit the incomes of taxi drivers, result in customers waiting longer and risk public safety, they say.
Welwyn Hatfield Council and Herts County Council are planning to remove the taxi spaces on Fretherne Road and make it one-way with work expected to start in late spring.
The councils say this will help “improve safety by calming traffic and reducing vehicle and pedestrian conflict in this part of town”.
Steve Garelick, GMB Regional Officer said: “The decision to move the well-known rank that is a community institution based on half-baked and unproven data, shows a contempt for the drivers and the public.
“It is clear the council’s officers are steering their own course based on their decision to ignore our requests for responses for over a month.”
The councils issued a joint statement in which they said: “Our final plans are shaped by wide-reaching consultation with residents, businesses and visitors to the town, which also included some of the proposals being trialled on site with temporary traffic management for four weeks.
“A meeting was arranged for taxi drivers to share their views when developing options but unfortunately, no drivers or union representatives attended.”
The councils added: “We’re looking at ways to create more space for taxis, including operating an extended rank during peak commuter hours, and encouraging better use of the rank outside John Lewis.
“We are inviting taxi drivers to a further meeting to discuss their concerns in the New Year.
“We are proposing to extend the taxi rank during their peak hours – when shopper numbers are limited – to avoid competition for space along Howardsgate.”
Rosie Newbigging, Labour Candidate for Welwyn Hatfield said: “I fully support Welwyn Hatfield hackney carriage drivers in their campaign to keep the taxi rank where it is.
“It makes no sense to get rid of it. It will create a public safety risk with people forced to cross a busy road to get a taxi - particularly for people with disabilities and elderly people.
“It will also mean people have to wait longer for taxis as the remaining rank by the shops will take fewer taxis. And it will hit the livelihoods of our local taxi drivers.
“This is another nonsensical proposal from Tory-run Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council.”