France

No pick ups at Paris airports amid taxi war on minicabs

AFP/François Guillot

Taxi services out of Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris were almost at a standstill on Monday as drivers went on strike over competition from rival mini-cabs.

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For the second time in less than a month, there were huge traffic jams on the outskirts of the French capital as convoys of hundreds of taxis made their way at snail pace towards a demonstration in the city centre.

An spokesman at Charles de Gaulle airport said no taxis were picking up travellers from France's main hub for international flights while ranks at Orly, to the south of the city, were blockaded by over 100 cars belonging to drivers involved in the strike.

By mid-day there had been no reports of the sort of violent attacks on minicabs which marred a similar day of protest last month amid signs that drivers of the rival cars had decided to stay away from the airports.

Minicabs, known in France as tourist vehicles with chauffeur (VTCs), were only authorised in 2009 as an attempt to address chronic shortfalls in the availability of taxis, particularly in Paris, the most visited city in the world.

VTCs differ from 'official' taxis in that they don't have luminous signs on their roofs, have to be booked in advance and do not have the right to pick up passengers who hail them in the street.

Taxi drivers say the VTCs are increasingly flouting the rules and stealing their business without having to respect the costly regulations imposed on taxis.

Philippe Morival, a Parisian taxi driver for 30 years, said: "I paid 235,000 euros for my licence and I have to respect a whole series of strict rules.Mini-cabs are accountable to no one."

Nasser, a Parisian taxi driver, explains why he and his colleagues are angry: "Imagine a young taxi driver who has to pay 240,000 euros for a licence, plus the car and expenses, and his competitor buys a Mercedes and a licence for 100 euros. Imagine competing with that. Young drivers would kill for that. It's very dangerous."

France's Socialist government responded to the taxi drivers' complaints in December by issuing a decree which restricted mini-cabs from picking up passengers within 15 minutes of a reservation being made.

The measure, designed to discourage speculative touting for business, was suspended last week by the Council of State pending a ruling on whether it is in the public interest.

 

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