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Paris mayhem: Taxi drivers vs. minicabs

2014-02-13 08:27

Myriam Lemetayer

HEAR US! Paris traffic came to a stand still on Wednesday (Feb 12) when some 70 taxis blocked roads close to Orly airport south of Paris to protest mini-cabs "stealing their business." Image: AFP

PARIS, France - The French capital faced more traffic chaos on February 12 as taxi drivers vowed to push ahead with strikes against competition from mini-cabs.

The action created huge traffic jams on city streets and at airports.

Paris taxis have been on strike for several days to protest against the growing use of mini-cabs, which have to be booked in advance and do not have the right to pick up passengers who simply hail them.


The minicabs, known in France as tourist vehicles with chauffeur (VTCs), were introduced in 2009 to address chronic shortfalls in the availability of taxis, particularly in Paris, the most visited city in the world, but taxi drivers say they are stealing their business without having to respect the costly regulations imposed on taxis.

The taxis' unions late on February 12 called for an "indefinite strike" until the government agreed to stop issuing new registrations for VTCs.

Nordine Dahmane, head of the FO-Taxis union, warned that drivers were ready to take action "everywhere and anywhere".

Strike action was already under way early on Thursday (Feb 13) with some 70 taxis blocking pick-up spots at Orly airport south of Paris and a convoy slowing traffic from Charles de Gaulle airport north of the capital.


A protest late Tuesday at the iconic Place de la Concorde in central Paris saw 64 taxi drivers arrested for blocking traffic but they were released without charge.

About 200 protesting drivers had gathered at Place de la Concorde and overnight the same number had protested at the nearby Place de la Madeleine.

Hoping to head off further chaos, French president Francois Hollande's government named Socialist lawmaker Thomas Thevenoud as a mediator.

On Wednesday he called for calm, saying the message from taxi drivers "has been heard loud and clear". Thevenoud told BFM-TV: "I call on everyone to gather around the table with me, to talk, to listen, to compromise and to find a new system."

Thevenoud has been mandated to come up with a system of "balanced competition" between taxi drivers and VTCs within two months.

Taxi drivers have for years jealously guarded their right to operate on the streets of Paris, leading to accusations of artificial shortages in the French capital.


Licenses are granted by the government for free, but in limited numbers, and are sold amongst drivers for around the equivalent of R3.4-million. The license to operate a VTC costs €100 about R1500.
The government responded to the taxi drivers' complaints in December 2013 by issuing a decree restricting mini-cabs from picking up passengers within 15 minutes of a reservation being made.

But the measure was suspended earlier in February by the Council of State pending a ruling on whether it is in the public interest.

The taxi unions are calling for VTCs to be limited by a 30-minute delay and a minimum fare equivalent of R900 - which would effectively close them out of the market for trips within central Paris.

There are some 55 000 taxis registered in France and by the end of 2013 about 12 400 vehicles were operating as VTCs.
Read more on:    paris  |  france

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