Battle of the cabbies ends as deal is struck on airport arrangements

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 July, 2007, 12:00am

The long-standing dispute between different interest groups within the taxi and cargo-van trades over transportation arrangements at the airport has finally been resolved.

Commissioner for Transport Alan Wong Chi-kong said the 28 major taxi associations - including those that staged a road blockade last Saturday that disrupted traffic for up to seven hours - reached agreement after a year of negotiations.

Under the new arrangements, radio taxis will no longer be able to pick up passengers near Car Park No 1 - an interim measure introduced the day after the blockade. Instead, from noon on Sunday, they will move to the more distant Car Park No 3 as officials originally proposed.

The move was meant to address the grievances of meter-taxi drivers, who complained their business had been affected by the radio taxis, which they said illegally solicited passengers by offering discounts.

'The law-abiding drivers join long queues outside the airport to wait for passengers, while these discount-taxi groups just roll in and snatch our business. Is this fair to those who spend a whole day waiting?' said To Sun-tong, of the Motor Transport Workers' General Union.

About 150 taxi drivers gathered for a sit-in protest at the temporary pick-up point for radio-taxi drivers while the groups met with the Transport Department at its Wan Chai headquarters at 10am yesterday. The drivers, who had threatened more vigorous action if the talks fell through, dispersed when the resolution was announced at 12.30pm.

In a briefing outside the headquarters, Mr Wong said the new measures would allow easier law enforcement over illegal soliciting of passengers at the airport.

'The arrangement is not only a reasonable balance of the interests of different parties, but also enables police to focus their efforts on monitoring and conducting key-point inspections at the airport,' he said.

'We will combat illegal soliciting activities from discount-taxi groups, and also the illegal carriage of passengers without luggage by goods vans.'

However, cargo-van groups and radio-taxi drivers remained unhappy with the new arrangement.

Kwok Chi-piu, who represented the radio-taxi groups at yesterday's meeting, said he was forced to accept the proposal as he was the odd one out among the 28 associations.

The Airport Authority has agreed to set up new direction signboards and temporary covers along the passages between Terminal 1 and Car Park No 3 within the next few days to protect passengers from any bad weather.

The Hong Kong Union of Light Van Employees expressed dismay that cargo vans were not allowed to wait for business in any airport car parks, but union chairman Ip Moon-lam said it would not take further action. Goods vans may continue to unload outside Car Park No 1.

Previously, there were no designated loading or unloading areas for the three kinds of vehicles. The lack of such arrangements sparked protests, some of which seriously disrupted traffic around the airport.