TAXI firms in Lurgan are furious plans for a rank have been scuppered after what was described as a ‘cloak and dagger meeting’.
Roads Service put ranks at Carnegie Street and Castle Lane on ice after a meeting with objectors last week.
However, no taxi firm was invited to the meeting including a taxi driver who is a member of Lurgan Forward.
The DRD confirmed to the ‘MAIL’ that Roads Service had ‘no current plans’ for taxi bays in both locations.
“A number of objections to the advertised proposals have been received and a meeting was held last week to discuss concerns. A further meeting will be held to discuss the way forward,” said a spokeswoman.
This is a turn around following an announcement last October that the bays were given the green light and approved by Craigavon Borough Council.
The ‘MAIL’ reported at that time that DRD Roads Service had even suggested operating hours of 7am to 7pm,.
A number of businesses objected to the ranks and a meeting was organised last week, however, no taxi firms were invited.
When asked why, a DRD spokeswoman said: “When the meeting was organised Roads Service requested that Lurgan Forward and Lurgan Chamber invite taxi firms as we did not hold specific contact details for them.”
John Joe Forker, a local taxi driver who is on the Steering Committee of Lurgan Forward said he was not invited to the meeting. When contacted by the ‘MAIL’ he said it was the first he had heard about it.
“If it is something to do with taxis, I should have been invited,” said Mr Forker.
“An ideal solution would be to have a taxi rank at the bus bays outside Lurgan Post Office,” said Mr Forker.
He explained that he went as a member of Lurgan Forward to meet Translink about this proposal some time ago however he said: “Translink were unhelpful on the matter.
“I will be eager to speak to my colleagues in Lurgan Forward about the issue,” said Mr Forker.
Brendan Loughan, owner of Anytime Taxis, based in William Street, was angry local taxi firms were not invited to the meeting.
“The fact that no taxi firms were invited makes it seem like a cloak and dagger meeting,” he said.
“We are supposed to be a town together trying to move forward but only to those that it suits. The taxi firms are businessmen in this town too,” he said. “We need a bit of openness here. If there are reasons why they don’t want a taxi rank then by all means explain those reasons.
“All taxi drivers want is to park their vehicle legally and ply their trade.
“If the taxi rank is not the way forward then let’s discuss something else,” said Mr Loughan.
Maurice Gribbon, owner of Minicab in North Street said: “It’s a joke. Craigavon Council are a joke.
“We pay £140 a year for a PSV licence and there is nowhere to legally pick up in Lurgan,” he said.
Mr Gribbon suggested that bus bays in the town centre should be used by taxis when buses were not availing of the space.
And he was very critical that no taxi firms were invited to the meeting to discuss the taxi ranks.
Mr Gribbon said he was told a year ago that the taxi ranks were going ahead.
He said every town in the country has a taxi rank in the centre of town and that Lurgan is serviced by at least 60 taxis a day between Lurgan and Craigavon.
“Why were we not invited to this meeting about taxi ranks?” said Mr Gribbon.
Local businessman Charlie Gardiner said he was called in at the last minute to represent Lurgan Forward.
“Lurgan Forward were there to meet Roads Service with regard to objections to the taxi rank.
“We were hopeful that there could be amended proposals to be brought forward and the taxi firms would be consulted on any new proposals and seek their input.
“We can’t bring anything forward without the taxi drivers.”
The only taxi stand near Lurgan is at Rushmere shopping centre.
The Chamber of Commerce were contacted for comment but the spokesman for the issue was unavailable.