Plans for a £36 million city-centre pedestrianisation scheme have come under fire from private hire taxi drivers who would be banned from the area, while black cabs would still be allowed to operate.
The city’s George Street project has been delayed a year and is now due to start in 2025 with widened pavements and new traffic restrictions, including banning cars and private hire vehicles, with black cabs and deliveries only allowed between 7pm and 10am.
The council transport convener, Councillor Scott Arthur, told the authority that the scheme is aimed at reducing the 5,000 taxis and PHVs which currently enter George Street each day.
He told the council’s transport committee that the more traffic restrictions are relaxed, “the more of the value of what we’re trying to do is lost”.
He added: “Even allowing taxis in the evening, we think there would be about one a minute coming in.
“During peak times, we’ve got data that shows between 3,000 and 5,000 taxis come into George Street in a day.
“If we allowed that level of access, whilst it might be good for businesses, in the short-term we’d lose a lot of the value we’re trying to deliver on the street if 5,000 taxis come in in a single day.”
While similar schemes have been introduced in towns and cities across the UK, it is difficult to see why black cabs and PHVs are to be treated differently in this case. They still pick up and drop off passengers – the only difference being that black cabs can be hailed in the street and PHVs have to be booked in advance, in line with their licensing and taxi insurance.
And Capital Cars boss Kevin Woodburn sees the move to allow public hire taxis but not private hire vehicles to enter George Street as discrimination and called for “fair and equal treatment” of the trade’s two sectors. His reasoning is that either both types of taxi should be permitted on George Street or neither should be allowed.
He told the transport committee: “We fail to understand the reasoning and the logic. The majority of the vehicles who service the public are not allowed access while the minority are – it makes no sense to us.
“My concern is that we once again are being put in a position where we have no choice but to go down a legal route.”
Mr Woodburn is calling for fair treatment for private hire drivers, who make up two-thirds of the city’s taxi fleet.
He added: “We are probably having to look at legal recourse to eventually have a conversation about this and other potential plans, all at yet another horrendous expense to everyone involved, including the council tax-paying public of Edinburgh.”
Work to create the ‘European style cycling street’ within the central carriageway is due to start in 2025 and will see pavements widened with planters, shrubbery and relaxation spaces along the street.
Cllr Arthur said the project was “starting to get real” as it moved into the next phase which includes applying for the powers to begin construction and finalising plans.
Concerns were also raised at the meeting about the scheme’s £36m price tag and the possibility of it rising further.
Should public hire taxis be treated differently to PHVs?
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