Airport chaos spurs new taxi deal

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 July, 2007, 12:00am

Drivers jam roads for hours, forcing temporary action on parking

More than 200 taxi drivers called off a six-hour demonstration at the airport early yesterday after a temporary passenger pick-up point was set up closer to the main terminal one building than the designated point.

Hundreds of taxi drivers had encircled terminal one with their vehicles from 9pm on Saturday to protest against the authority's enforcement of measures to stop taxis illegally picking up passengers who ordered taxis.

Chaos ensued, with passengers unable to leave the airport as buses were blocked in.

The temporary pick-up point has failed to please most affected parties, with a group of goods van drivers angry that they are not allowed to use it.

Taxi drivers and passengers were also not impressed with the temporary pick-up point, which is at car park four, next to terminal one. They accused the Airport Authority of not deploying enough staff to direct them to it.

'Not even a notice board has been posted at this temporary pick-up point,' a taxi driver told a television reporter.

'I had to circle a few times before I found this spot to pick up my clients who have called me to pick them up. I did not even know it was a pick-up point when I passed it.'

Some passengers were also confused about the new location and it took them time to find it while pulling their suitcases around the terminal.

'Though the temporary pick-up point is nearer than the designated area, which is near terminal two, it is still quite far away and inconvenient,' a passenger told the television reporter.

The temporary solution came after representatives from Urban Taxi Drivers' Association Joint Committee, Transport Department and the Airport Authority reached a consensus after a three-hour meeting that ended at 3am.

The crisis was resolved after transport officials proposed to free three parking spaces at car park four for taxis to collect passengers who specifically order them.

The temporary plan will be reviewed over the next seven days.

'I hope the Airport Authority will hold a meeting with us during this seven-day period to discuss the matter so that we can pick another location which is agreeable to all parties,' said spokesman Kwok Chi-biu, of the taxi drivers group.

The new traffic policy has banned taxis and vans from using car parks one, two and four in the terminal area. They have been able to use only car park three.

About 300 taxi drivers and 30 van drivers joined the demonstration that jammed nearly all the roads outside terminal one and the nearby bus terminal. They said the new passenger pick-up point was too far away and complained about the lack of parking space in the designated area.

Passengers on airport buses were stranded for hours by hundreds of taxis parked on the roads leading to Tung Chung. Some taxi drivers barred the entry of other vehicles by blocking the exits of car park four.

Some passengers walked to Tung Chung rather than wait hours for transport.

Tourists criticised the Airport Authority for failing to resolve the crisis and said the incident would damage Hong Kong's image.

'I have not seen one police officer patrolling around here or to help passengers and the Airport Authority does not have any emergency plan to help us,' a female traveller said.

The Airport authority apologised for the inconvenience.