Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Eamonn Holmes lets fly over Belfast airport's new taxi system

Belfast City Airport's taxi system is under fire from TV presenter Eamonn Holmes
Belfast City Airport's taxi system is under fire from TV presenter Eamonn Holmes
Belfast City Airport's taxi system is under fire

TV presenter Eamonn Holmes has been left fuming at George Best Belfast City Airport after changes were made to the taxi system.

The This Morning presenter tweeted furiously on Friday night about the recently altered taxi system operating from the airport.

Value Cabs has obtained an exclusive front-of-house contract at Belfast City Airport, replacing the public hire black taxi service.

The barrage of angry tweets began on Friday, with one saying: "U COULDN'T MAKE IT UP!!!!! Uproar at the new taxi collection system at Belfast George Best Airport. Worst system ever."

He also attached a picture of a busy queuing area.

The Belfast-born celebrity continued: "U can now seemingly ONLY get a taxi at Belfast City Airport if u BOOK in advance. Please let me interview whoever thought this up!"

He then urged radio broadcaster Stephen Nolan to slam the new system, tweeting: "Please tell me @stephennolan has debated this on Radio Ulster! Complete shambles NI DOE and G Best Airport."

This was followed by: "I thought the idea was to attract people to Belfast? @TourismIreland – stick the boot in! We are a laughing stock!!!!!"

Finally, politicians got their share of the blame with the blast: "Why do NI Politicians allow their biggest (sic) airport to operate like this?"

Under the previous black taxi system it was not necessary to pre-book or stand in a queue with a ticket.

A spokesman for Belfast City Airport said the "slight" change was because of Value Cabs being a private hire firm and, by law, is required to only take passengers who have booked in advance.

"In essence, you have to pre-book by getting a ticket from an office inside the terminal."

Changes to the Taxis Act (Northern Ireland) 2008, which introduced a single licensing system, effectively making all taxis public hire, was scheduled to take effect from September 2013, but has yet to be made law.

The move was delayed by five months last year to let the taxi industry prepare for the change.

It was suggested by then Environment Minister Alex Attwood that allowing the public to hail any taxi would give them more choice and bring prices down.

The outburst from the popular TV presenter comes after the Belfast Telegraph reported on another consequence of the new exclusivity contract between Value Cabs and Belfast City Airport, with travellers paying more than if they chose a rival company.

A £2 supplementary cost is automatically charged and goes towards the airport.

It was condemned by Ukip MLA David McNarry, who warned the airport could get a reputation as being a "rip-off".

He said: "Charging people an extra £2 is an extortion and they shouldn't be allowed to do that."

The £2 levy means that passengers travelling with Value Cabs from the airport to the centre of Belfast will have to pay £10, instead of £8 with a rival firm.

Another recent passenger also slammed the taxi system.

He said he came in on a flight from London last week and went out to the taxi rank, only to be asked: "Have you booked?"

The man said: "In future I'll just call another firm from my mobile when I arrive, as it will be just as fast and I'll also save myself a couple of quid.

"It's not the drivers – the system and law is ridiculous."

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