A Paris minicab was attacked on Monday by disgruntled taxi drivers as they staged a go-slow protest between the capital’s airports and the city centre. Traditional licensed taxi drivers are furious that the government has liberalised the taxi market to encourage private hire vehicles, or minicabs, arguing that they create unfair competition.
Monday’s strike by licensed cabbies began at dawn, as hundreds of taxis drove slowly from Paris’s main airports to converge on the city centre. More than 200 vehicles joined the cortege, causing massive disruption including some 242 km of traffic jams around Paris’s busy Périphérique ring road, according to French road agency Bison Futé.
Thousands more taxis were expected to take part in a nationwide protest during the day in cities across France, in particular in Bordeaux, Lyon and Marseille. Their gripe is the growing number of minicabs, known in France as “Voitures de Tourisme avec Chauffeurs” (VTC), as well as the New Year increase of VAT from 7 percent to 10 percent.
VTC companies have blossomed in France since the government relaxed caps on the number of private hire vehicles in 2009. VTCs do not display a taxi light, have to be pre-booked and are not allowed to pick up customers on the roadside or tout for business in airport terminals – a practice many licensed taxi drivers have accused them of.
“We pay 230,000 euros for a license while VTCs only pay 120 euros,” Dominique Prudhomme, a member of the Force Ouvrier union, told AFP. “You think that’s fair?”
Another cabbie complained that he was engaged in an “unfair battle” with minicabs, whom he accused of openly picking up passengers from the streets.
In a bid to placate traditional taxis, in October the government imposed on VTCs a 15-minute delay between making a reservation and picking up a customer. But this isn’t enough for France’s taxi unions, who want a 30-minute delay and a minimum charge for taking a VTC of 60 euros per trip.
Hailing a cab in Paris and in cities across the country can be a challenge, with far fewer licensed vehicles operating than in comparable cities, such as London and New York.
The number of taxi licenses is strictly controlled, with just 55,000 across France, including 20,000 in Paris. There are now 650 VTC companies operating around 12,000 vehicles.
Minicab attacked in Paris taxi go-slow protest