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THE town’s taxi firms have united to tackle an age old problem - and open up the possibility of an official taxi rank for Lurgan.

Taxi drivers have consistently been blamed for traffic jams in the town, while the firms themselves have been asking for a designated rank for the past 25 years to alleviate congestion.

A solution could soon be at hand. Lurgan Forward and the Chamber of Commerce chaired a meeting for local taxi drivers on Tuesday to consult on proposals for an official taxi rank in the town.

It was noted this was first time Lurgan’s business community had engaged with taxi drivers. The meeting was told buses and taxis were causing chaos to the town’s traffic flow and that the situation had deteriorated since the public realm works came into force.

Taxi drivers were warned they would face fines and could lose their licences if they continued to park in spaces designated for buses, particularly at the old post office in Market Street.

One driver said it was not taxi drivers who made this lay by the town’s unofficial taxi rank, but the general public who go there expecting taxis to pick them up.

Another taxi man questioned why Translink had the monopoly in the town centre when taxis are providing the same service.

Taxi drivers were told if they didn’t put any proposals forward to Roads Service they would end up with just two spaces in the town centre.

The options for them to consider were a taxi rank for up to 12 vehicles in Castle Lane or Carnegie Street.

Some drivers suggested the options meant the business community didn’t want taxis in the town centre. They were reassured that the traders saw them as vital to the town’s economy.

One driver said they needed to get as many spaces as possible because there were up to 80 taxis in the town during the day providing an important service to the public.

It was noted that after 5pm the need for a taxi rank wouldn’t be as pressing as the traffic in the town eased significantly and more spaces became available.

After the proposals were discussed the drivers present decided a regulated taxi rank in Carnegie Street would be the better option as it was closer to the town centre.

They asked that the rank be sheltered and clearly signposted. It was also requested that only named firms be allowed to operate from the rank.

Talk of a ‘first come, first served’ system was met with some objection as drivers said it was human nature for people to prefer one firm over another.

It was pointed out there had been talk of council bringing a market to Carnegie Street, but taxi drivers were told the taxi rank would override the market.

One driver pointed out Carnegie Street was left turn only and during the day it could be particularly difficult to get out of.

He was told a right turn at the top of the one way street to allow vehicles to get across the road was something that had been discussed with Roads Service.

The drivers agreed to allow Lurgan Forward and the Chamber of Commerce to lobby Roads Service on their behalf for a regulated taxi rank in Carnegie Street and an overflow facility at Castle Lane which could double up as a second rank as well as any other spaces in the town centre that were available.

One taxi man commented the idea of a taxi rank had come up regularly over the past 25 years, but nothing had ever been done about it.

In light of action being taken against taxi drivers for parking illegally in the town centre, it was resolved that Lurgan Forward and the Chamber of Commerce needed to arrange a meeting with Roads Service as soon as possible with a view to fast-tracking a taxi rank for Lurgan.