Taxi drivers in Douglas have been permitted to continue using a town centre rank as roadworks begin, after a number of them refused to move when government contractors arrived. 

Initially, the Department of Infrastructure announced that along with the bus stop, Victoria Street taxi rank would have to move further down the street (to in front of Victoria Grill). 

Mike Birchall, secretary of the Isle of Man branch of the Unite taxi drivers union, said that this would have left only three parking spaces worth of room, causing issues at busy times such as weekends.

The roadworks, which are expected to take around 20 weeks, are replacing the pedestrian crossing in Victoria Street with a new raised crossing at the junction with Duke Street. 

It will be similar to the raised crossing which is already in use in Lord Street.

The DoI stated that ‘it will enhance accessibility for all users and is designed to act as a traffic calming measure through one of the busiest areas of Douglas town centre’. 

‘The paved areas immediately surrounding the crossing will also be improved,’ the department added. 

It said that the situation between the contractors and the taxi drivers was ‘quickly defused’.

Mr Birchall said that taxi drivers had first heard of the works only two days before they had begun, and not been consulted by the government ‘in any shape or form.

However, the DoI told the Manx Independent that all Douglas taxi firms were ‘emailed with the relevant information in advance of the works starting’.

In addition to this, letters were dropped to all nearby businesses ‘as part of the normal engagement process’.

Speaking to the Independent, Mr Birchall explained how the situation had been resolved: ‘What they’ve done now is suspended the loading bay [on Victoria Street] and we’re using that as a taxi rank.

‘I’ve explained to them [the DoI] that on a Saturday night the taxis queue around past the Town Hall’.

‘The taxi rank as it is isn’t big enough, we’ve been asking the DoI for years to do away with the loading bay and give us the whole of that area.

‘We struggle at the best of times, so those three spaces they offered us by Victoria Grill just wasn’t an option,’ he added.

Once road resurfacing begins, Mr Birchall said that further consultations will take place with the taxi union about timescales.