TAXI drivers who claim Central Station improvements have crippled trade say they will boycott Newcastle’s new parking rank.
Since the building’s historic portico was closed off, taxi drivers say their passenger numbers have halved.
They claim some drivers have been left waiting more than an hour for a fare and face the prospect of earning just £16 for half a day’s work.
Others complain of being hounded by traffic wardens as they struggle to park because the new station rank has just four parking spaces, which they pay more than £2,000 a year to use.
Drivers will now take part in a protest against the improvements and will avoid pulling their vehicles into the parking bays.
Taxi driver Paul Robinson, 45, of Westerhope, Newcastle, is one of those taking part on July 1.
A taxi driver for 25 years, he said: “We are going to move from the station rank back to the spaces outside of the hotel. If everyone starts to work from there, then we will all be in the same position.
“We have to pay £2,030 every year for a permit and now there are only four spaces. It’s an absolute disgrace.”
East Coast bosses claim they always intended to increase the number of hackney carriage parking bays.
They say there will soon be between eight and 11 bays available, and that they are working with Newcastle City Council and business group NE1 to improve access to the city centre.
An East Coast spokesman said: “The management of taxi permits at Newcastle station was taken in-house by East Coast at the drivers’ own request. Since then, East Coast has worked with taxi providers to create additional opportunities to gain custom.
“There are currently more than 200 taxi permits in use, with more drivers on a waiting list to join.
“Hackney carriage drivers currently pay £1,692 (excluding VAT) a year for a permit, which reflects the market value of access to the station.
“This fee has risen by just 2.5% in the last year. That’s below the current 2.9% inflation rate. Newcastle Central Station has the largest footfall of all 12 East Coast managed stations. At others, such as York, Darlington and Durham, permit prices are also set in line with size and footfall at each location.
“The transformation of Central Station is an exciting scheme which will provide an impressive gateway to Newcastle. We believe all station users, including taxi drivers, will ultimately benefit from the development.
“Passenger usage at the station is expected to rise, and we expect this will particularly benefit the taxi drivers in the long term.”