Friday, 17 June 2011

'Ey-Up: Pay Up!

Weary families, dressed in shorts, T-shirts and ill-chosen hats, stumble along a busy roadside, dragging suitcases through a biting wind and sheeting rain.  

There’s a distinctly third world edge about arriving at Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) these days.

Since the start of June, vehicles entering the drop-off car park outside the terminal at LBA find themselves being charged £2 for up to 30 minutes when previously it was free.  Angry drivers challenge implacable security staff to no avail.  Last week I drove in, unloaded, bid farewells and was away, from entrance to exit barrier in 25 seconds dead.  £2. Last month it was free.  Pay up.

For the first week or so, only the smallest of added lettering to the main signs indicated this change has taken place whereas now emergency signs have been set out at the roadside as a result, one assumes, of the outcry by users of the airport.  Don’t say you haven't been warned.

Yet surprisingly, bus and taxi operators have not been excluded from the price hike.  They now have to subscribe to a season ticket to access the front of the airport, the costs of which are passed on to passengers accordingly. No-one is happy.

The airport’s response is that other airports have recently introduced charges for drop off, and LBA is simply following suit.  The examples they cite include London Luton, East Midlands and Newcastle.  However, none of these airports have a minimum charge as high as £2, and all of them offer a much more comprehensive range of alternative access by public transport.  Regular bus services, metro and train services, with courtesy coaches where necessary, ply throughout the operating hours at all of them.  At LBA however there’s an hourly bus to Leeds railway station in the evening, one to Bradford, another to Harrogate… and that’s your lot.  To get to and from LBA a taxi or car is essential. 

LBA states that up to an hour’s free waiting time is now available at Long-stay Car Parks 1 & 2, at a distance which they describe as ‘walkable’.  A visit this week indicated that no access is available to the nearer Long-stay 1, which is closed off behind a large barricade.  Long-stay 2 is the best part of half a mile from the arrivals concourse but, once there, no mention of the waiting facility is indicated on its entrance.  Can drivers be sure they can enter - and leave - for free?

Elsewhere around the airport site double yellow lines abound (why not red ones?) and lamp-posts are festooned with ‘No Waiting’ signs.  Luminous-vested parking attendants patrol the roads, ready to chastise and move on any erring driver who attempts to pick up or drop off passengers.  Unsurprising then, that walking to the (closer) roundabout on the A658 is acknowledged as being the least worst option for those who rely on loved-ones to pick up or drop off by car. 

If LBA wants to promote itself as an efficient, attractive gateway to Yorkshire, it needs to think about how it presents itself to its business and leisure customers alike.  The county’s international airport has started to display some some regrettably Yorkshire traits. To charge so much to people who have no choice is curmudgeonly, mean and little short of punitive.

LBA  needs to think again.

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