A RUGBY scrum of a battle has broken out after Edinburgh Airport threatened to hike coach charges for French fans next month.
Airport chiefs want to end the past transport chaos when dozens of coaches arrive to collect thousands of supporters for the biennial Scotland rugby clash at Murrayfield.
They told operators that coach parking would be provided in a car park at a cost of £200 per vehicle for the day before the 13 March match. This compares to the previous £5 to £10 fee for using the tiny coach park, which has been overwhelmed by the influx.
The airport said the coaches could use another site instead, such as Ingliston park-and-ride, with passengers taken there by shuttle bus.
Operators blasted the plans as “preposterous”. Cecile Picot-Muir, of Edinburgh-based Creative Travel Connections, said: “To charge all operators £200 per coach coming into Edinburgh Airport and hoping their clients pay those astronomical parking bills is simply an incredible decision.”
Experience Scotland managing director Yves Lemarchand said: “We have requested a solution for coaches at Edinburgh Airport for years. The airport has not managed to find a suitable solution and is now punishing coach operators and tour operators for not planning it well.”
Paul White, spokesman for the Confederation of Public Transport, which represents coach firms, said: “We have entered into dialogue to stress the importance of sustainable tourism to and from the airport. However, at this stage, no solution has been tabled by the airport that would be acceptable to coach operators or their passengers.”
Gavin Booth, director of watchdog Bus Users Scotland, said: “It seems unfair that coach passengers are being inconvenienced. Coaches take up little more space than three or four cars. Charges like this could discourage passengers from using coaches for such events, particularly if this extra cost is passed on to them.”
An Edinburgh Airport spokesman said: “This is an incredibly busy day for us and our coach park, with its capacity of three spaces, simply cannot handle the expected 3,500 passengers and 72 or more coaches in a safe manner.
“We’ve been discussing options with tour operators and have secured support for an off-site option. All of these [options] were turned down in favour of a solution where the airport would have to clear an area of its car park. We have estimated the cost of this at £200 per coach.
“We derive no profit from it. This option will apply only if car parking space has to be utilised, but we hope this is now a last resort. We must be able to deal with these passengers in a safe and efficient way that does not impact our other passengers or the road network.”