A new exclusive use taxi deal at the NEC will hit every customer with a £1.60 premium before they even leave, it has emerged.
The three-year contract has been struck with ComCab, whose drivers will be the only ones who can rank and ply for trade at the main entrance of the exhibition and entertainment centre.
The cab firm will impose a £2 standard flag fare black cabs charge customers, but with an extra £1.60 charge on top, of which the NEC will receive a share.
Private hire and black cab drivers who do not work for ComCab have been told that they can only use the main drop off areas if they have disabled or elderly passengers.
One Solihull-based private hire driver said there was real anger about the deal.
The 57-year-old from Solihull, who does not want to be named, said: “We have been told that we can make a drop off if the person is disabled or elderly, but anybody abusing the system will be banned from the site completely.
“Customers have a right to choice, but this deal means they have very little choice.
“Nobody is going to walk to drop off points that are further away. It means that every customer will be hit with a £1.60 fee as soon as they get in.
“There is a dedicated lane and rank for them and everybody else has been squeezed out, including black cab drivers that are not with ComCab. It’s restricting trade for us and the choice for the customer.
“We have held meetings with the NEC and there has also been talk about mounting some kind of protest.
“I’m not even sure that most people know about the £1.60 charge, but a sign has been put up near to the rail station, which says that this fee will be passed directly to the passenger.
The taxi driver claimed the NEC needed the £1.60 fee to recoup the costs of new bollards for the system, although the NEC has denied this.
Richard Campbell-Kelly, property manager at the NEC, said: “ComCab will provide a high quality, black cab, service at low-cost fixed rate, of £1.60, per ride.
“This means customers do not need to worry about additional charges normally associated with extra passengers, luggage and out of area journeys.
“With thousands of visitors travelling by taxi to the NEC each week, we wanted to ensure consistently high levels of service that enhance the experience of everyone arriving or departing the site.
“We received several excellent applications through the tender process, but the strong regional presence of ComCab combined with its expertise as a national operator gave us the perfect fit.
“In order to accommodate customers who have arranged a taxi in advance with another operator, the NEC has created two new pick up and set down areas, which are located close to the main entrance. All journeys will be charged according to the taxi meter at prices agreed by Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council.”
Simon Haynes, general manager at ComCab Birmingham Ltd, said: “Working with the NEC is a fantastic opportunity for the company and our drivers, and we look forward to servicing the needs of its customers over the next three years.”