PLANS to move a long-standing taxi rank have received a mixed reaction from Sunderland cabbies and shoppers.
With work getting under way on the new Magistrates’ Square development, the Hackney rank on Crowtree Road is set to be moved.
But drivers say the change is confusing their customers, costing them money and leaving shoppers with further to walk.
The new £13million “gateway” development has led to major works in St Mary’s Way and Livingstone Road, as well as the demolition of properties in Crowtree Road.
However, it has also meant the Londonderry taxi rank will no longer be operational.
Council bosses say a temporary rank will be set up on High Street West before a permanent rank is established close to the Empire Theatre.
But some cabbies say the move is already costing them cash.
One Hackney cab driver, who asked not to be identified, said: “I’m losing about £40 to £50 per day because of this.
“When they moved the old rank from West Street it took a while for everyone to realise it had changed.
“The other problem is, if they’re going to create a new rank beside the theatre, it’s a hell of a walk for older people who are doing their shopping on the other side of town.”
Council bosses say the changes are needed as part of the city centre’s regeneration programme.
Councillor Mel Speding, from Sunderland City Council, said: “As many people will be aware, the council has a comprehensive regeneration and redevelopment scheme that is re-shaping the city centre.
“These works are improving St Mary’s Way, improving access for Vaux, creating a new public square and focal point, plus a fresh development opportunity at the Crowtree site.
“These works are all about building and concentrating more economic activity in our city centre.
“This is for a centre that is in keeping with Sunderland’s ambitions both now and in the future, so there’s a lift and economic boost for everyone.
“Inevitably there will be some disruption as we move forward on this and the council has been in consultation before, during, and after with taxi and cab company representatives.
“As the work moves into its next phase, the Londonderry rank will be replaced with temporary arrangements only metres away in High Street West.
“And, in the longer term, a new and expanded rank is being made available next to The Empire Theatre to complement all these new opportunities.”
Trevor Hines, acting chairman of Sunderland Hackney Carriage Operators, said the changes were the best possible option in the circumstances.
He added: “We have been consulted on the plans.
“Cars and buses will no longer be able to access the current site due to the changes being made, so a new rank will be created nearby.”
But shoppers using Tesco in the Bridges are not so convinced.
Jean McIntyre, 71, of Pallion, said: “It’ll be a bit of a hike for me.
“I live in Millfield and usually get a taxi after I’ve picked up my shopping.”