Striking taxi drivers block access to Fitur, Spain’s top tourism fair

Madrid enters day three of a protest against ride-hailing services such as Uber and Cabify, while drivers in Barcelona will today vote on whether to end their own strike

Taxi drivers protesting on Wednesday morning.
Taxi drivers protesting on Wednesday morning.Álvaro García
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Residents of Madrid and Barcelona are having to cope with a new day of street protests by striking taxi drivers, who are demanding more stringent regulations for online ride-sharing services such as Uber and Cabify.

In the Spanish capital on Wednesday, protesters burned tires and containers near Ifema, the city’s main convention center, where King Felipe and Queen Letizia arrived earlier in the day to officially open Fitur, Spain’s leading tourism fair.

A roadblock near Ifema in Madrid, where the leading tourism fair Fitur opened today.
A roadblock near Ifema in Madrid, where the leading tourism fair Fitur opened today.Eduardo Oyana (EFE)

While the Spanish monarchs made it into the event, through a side door, the mayor of Guadalajara, Antonio Román, cancelled his scheduled visit “because of existing difficulties accessing Ifema due to the taxi driver conflict,” the news agency Europa Press reported.

With all access roads blocked, both private vehicles and public buses were unable to reach Ifema. A group of workers from the Sercotel hotel chain explained that they “had to cover three kilometers on foot and dragging our suitcases, because the hotel bus could not advance.”

Spanish King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia at the opening of the 39th Fitur fair.
Spanish King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia at the opening of the 39th Fitur fair.Chema Clares (GTRES)

No deal

In Madrid, taxi representatives and regional authorities walked away from the negotiating table late last night after failing to reach an agreement. The former want a similar deal to what their Barcelona colleagues have secured from Catalan officials. Under those terms, users of ride-sharing apps will have to book the service one hour in advance.

Barcelona taxi drivers have been on an open-ended strike since Friday, when the Catalan government unveiled its regulatory plans for VTC (vehicle for hire) licenses, which ride-hailing apps in Spain use to operate. Authorities had been proposing a 15-minute early-booking rule.

Striking taxi drivers in Barcelona on Tuesday.
Striking taxi drivers in Barcelona on Tuesday.Albert Garcia (EL PAÍS)

On Wednesday, Barcelona taxi drivers will vote on the new deal and decide whether to end the strike. On Tuesday night the companies Uber and Cabify said they would consider leaving Barcelona if the early-booking rule is imposed.

English version by Susana Urra.

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