Drivers' airport protest tarnishes image of HK

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2007, 12:00am

Perceptions of a city are sometimes made on arrival, and Hong Kong surely took a battering in some people's eyes during the weekend protests by taxi and goods van drivers at the airport. The more than 200 or so taxis that encircled terminal one for six hours, blocking access to and from the building, jolted impressions about our efficiency and ability to deal with problems.

The cause of the demonstration by cabbies, followed by one by van drivers, is the new pickup point for taxi passengers who call for a cab in advance. The wrangling, which saw a deal eventually struck between taxi drivers and the Airport Authority at 3am on Sunday, was allowed to go on for too long, inconveniencing travellers and harming Hong Kong's image. But with the agreed-to arrangement temporary, the risk of a repeat of the disruption remains high. But while the authority could have handled the matter better, drivers over-stepped the mark with their action. Transport secretary Eva Cheng Yu-wah was right to object to the drivers' actions yesterday.

Moves by police to prosecute those involved do not resolve the matter. The taxi drivers are not entirely happy with their new pick-up spot and drivers of competing goods vans are complaining about not being allowed access to it. A permanent solution needs to be found, as both groups are offering services which are clearly in demand - often because passengers are getting fares at a discounted rate.

Car parking space at the airport is at a premium, but if passengers are to be given the choice of booking a car in advance - instead of taking a taxi off the rank - a suitable, well-signposted spot is needed.

The airport is Hong Kong's most important passenger arrival point. Offering every viable transport option to passengers is necessary so that they can readily go about their business here. That a deal is reached swiftly is in the interests of the authority, taxi drivers and most importantly, Hong Kong.