KELSO taxi drivers claim they could find themselves in danger if the town’s taxi rank is switched from one side of The Square to the other when the experimental one-way traffic system is made permanent later this month.
Scottish Borders Council intends to amend the traffic order which is expected to be approved later this month, making the new road layout permanent.
It includes several untested amendments, including one to move the taxi rank from its current position in Innes Place, on the edge of The Square, to the opposite side of the Horsemarket, adjacent to the open area in front of the town hall.
It has not gone down well with local taxi firms or the town’s community council and this week SBC was expected to receive a letter, sent on behalf of Kelso taxi operators, outlining their objections.
The drivers say the switch will pose a danger to the public, particularly the elderly, who can currently enter and leave taxis safely from both sides of a vehicle without going on to the public highway.
“This untrialled proposal negates this as one side of the vehicle will be directly onto the public highway with moving traffic,” state the drivers in their letter to SBC legal chief, Ian Wilkie.
“It would be a danger to the taxi drivers in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings when the Kelso night club closes, because the proposed location will result in the siphoning of ‘inebriated merry-makers’ as a body directly to the taxi rank, rather than as present, allowing some disbursement towards the current location of the taxis, thus easing the tension and defusing potential flash points.”
And they claim that, because details about the proposed relocation of the rank were not included in the public notices previously published, it fails to comply with the statutory requirements to consult the public.
Until recently, Norrie Kerr represented the town’s taxi drivers on the local stakeholders’ group set up to channel the views of local organisations on the one-way system and proposed changes to the town centre.
Mr Kerr, who operates the Borders Luxury Travel taxi firm, claims taxi drivers will not use the new rank. He said: “We fought long and hard to get the taxi rank and it is situated in a very safe site. It is perfect. But because there is a proposal to have a public space in Innes Square, they want to move the rank.
“But this is entirely the wrong place for that, as the wind down the Dardanelles [vennel] makes it highly unsuitable for a public seated area. We can’t understand why the council wants to do this and when they haven’t trialled it, they have no idea what the effects will be.
“At the weekend, you get up to 18 taxis using the rank where it is at the moment. There are not spaces for that number, but the vehicles reverse into the rank and it means there are enough taxis to transport people quickly away from the town centre late at night, which I think the police are happy about.
“But where they are proposing to move the rank to is where lots of people coming out of the night club and pubs congregate and it is not somewhere you’d want to put either yourself or your vehicle.
“I can tell you no taxi drivers will use the rank if it is moved there. It is totally bizzare. The one-way system has been a great success as far as we are concerned, so we just can’t fathom why the council is so hell-bent on this change.”
Local community councillor Colin McGrath told us: “Moving the taxi rank was never included as part of the one-way system scheme.
“It was a side-effect of the town heritage initiative. It was never suggested until now, at the very last minute.”