It's rank stupidity

IPSWICH cab drivers are seething over construction work in Bell St which has deprived them of most of their parking spaces.

Cabbies claim they are being forced to pick up and drop off fares in bus bays - and are being swooped on by zealous parking inspectors.

It's the latest controversy to emerge in Bell St after residents of Murphy's Pub launched a street protest against late-night building noise in November and a disabled driver was caught parking in a bus bay by a parking inspector using the Safe City CCTV system.

The inappropriate use of CCTV led to the city council's cancelling 161 parking tickets last week.

Taxi drivers lost their longstanding six-bay rank outside the Ipswich City Square's food court in November when demolition work began on the site at the corner of Bell and Brisbane Sts.

Their taxi rank has been reduced to a parking space outside a noodle shop which accommodates fewer than two cars and is further away from the Ipswich rail station and doctors' surgeries.

Taxi driver Kev Pearce said the rank was "grossly inadequate".

"This has caused taxi operators, drivers and customers major problems," he said.

"Customers cannot be serviced, even if they can find the hopelessly inadequate rank, and the earning capacity of taxi operators and drivers has been decimated.

"Bus stops have taken over almost the entire street."

The construction of an office block on the corner of Bell St is the first stage of the $1 billion Icon Ipswich CBD rejuvenation project and has left parking spaces in the area in short supply.

City councillor Andrew Antoniolli said the Department of Transport and Main Roads and Translink had been "inflexible" about the amount of space required by buses using Bell St.

"The priority in Bell St is for buses as it is the public transport hub for Ipswich," he said.

"Council has endeavoured to balance the competing needs in the street while a large section is restricted adjacent to the building site," Cr Antoniolli said.

"I have been negotiating with Ipswich City Properties to establish a formal taxi rank near Woolworths in Ipswich City Square."

Cr Antoniolli said the Bell St taxi rank would return to its original location when construction work was finished.

David Hawkins, a taxi driver for 48 years, said he feared the temporary Bell St rank could be in place for up to four years.

"The buses have got more space on Bell St than they've ever had," he said.

"We believe taxi drivers should be looked after."

A State Government Transport and Main Roads spokesman said taxi ranks were the responsibility of the local authority.

Transit woes

More than a year after it was flooded, the Ipswich Transit Centre in Bell St is still closed.

Three weeks after last January's flood, Queensland Rail, which was managing the centre, said it aimed to reopen it by the end of February.

Last October, the Department of Transport and Main Roads, which took over management of the transit centre, said it was too expensive to repair.

Long-distance buses and local Westside Buses have moved to stops in Bell St.

This week, a Transport and Main Roads Department spokesman said it was "investigating options" for the Transit Centre."



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