Transport mayhem as French taxis join European protest, railways strike
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Hundreds of taxis disrupted traffic between Paris’ airports and the centre of the French capital on Wednesday as part of a Europe-wide protest against app-based car-rental companies, which coincided in France with a rail strike.
Over 300 taxis assembled at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport on Wednesday morning, later heading for central Paris on the A1 motorway, driving slowly to disrupt traffic.
Another convoy left Orly airport, south of the capital, leaving 200 colleagues blocking pick-up points until police moved them on.
There were also protests at the airport and main railway station in the major southern city of Marseille, as well as in Nantes and Rennes in western France and, elsewhere in Europe, in Rome, Berlin, Frankfurt, Madrid and London, where black cab drivers launched the Europe-wide action.
In France the day of action was organised by employers’ groups and not backed by most trade unions, who have organised their own protests over recent months.
Taxi drivers accuse operators, notably California-based company Uber, of bending the law and profiting from the fact that they don’t have to pay for licences that often cost as much as 240,000 euros.
There are an estimated 10,000 vehicle and motorcycle-taxis run by the new kind of firms in France.
Uber offered reduced rates on shared fares in Paris and Lyon.
A Socialist MP has drawn up a plan to answer some of the taxi operators' complaints.
Nearly half of France’s railworkers joined a strike that started on Wednesday and was likely to continue as the government proved reluctant to compromise on its plan to reform the rail network.
The SNCF rail company said that services were seriously disrupted on many lines, as it had previously announced they would be.
For predicted disruption see: French railways to strike Wednesday ... taxis too
The sector’s debt stands at 40 billion euros and is likely to rise to 80 billion euros by 2025 if action is not taken to control it, Transport Minister Frédéric Cuvillier said on Tuesday.
Unions say that his plan, which includes fusing the SNCF with track operator RFF, will not seriously tackle the debt and could prepare for privatisation of profitable sections of the network.
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