Barcelona taxi drivers end strike; Madrid stoppage enters day four

Sector accepts Catalan government’s new pre-booking requirements for ride-sharing services such as Uber and Cabify

Barcelona taxi drivers have decided to end the strike they began last Friday to protest against what they view as unfair competition from online ride-sharing services such as Uber and Cabify.

A group of around 30 taxi drivers briefly blocked the M-40 beltway on Thursday morning near the Ifema convention center

In a vote held late last night, a majority decided to accept a new decree proposed by the Catalan government setting out stricter regulations for VTC (vehicle for hire) licenses, which ride-hailing apps in Spain use to operate.

Under the proposed terms, users of ride-sharing services will have to book their vehicle at least 15 minutes in advance. The new rules, however, leave the door open for this period to be extended to an hour. This would require additional regulatory measures by the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB), an agency with powers over transportation in Barcelona and 35 outlying localities.

Meanwhile, in Madrid, the open-ended strike that began on Monday continues. A group of around 30 taxi drivers briefly blocked the M-40 beltway on Thursday morning near the Ifema convention center, which is currently hosting a major tourism fair, Fitur. On Wednesday, hundreds of cab drivers brought traffic to a standstill around Ifema as part of their own ongoing protest against ride-hailing services.

Authorities in Madrid are trying to come up with a similar decree to the one developed by the Catalan government. But conflicting viewpoints between city officials, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, and their regional counterparts, of the Popular Party (PP), have been preventing progress.

A draft decree produced by the regional government says that users of ride-hailing services will have to book their vehicles in advance, but does not propose any specific time periods. This decision is left up to municipal authorities. But Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena feels that the regional government should at least define a minimum and maximum period to work with.

Underlying the conflict is the fact that last summer, as taxi drivers staged major strikes in Madrid and Barcelona, the central government transferred regulatory powers over VTC licenses to the regions, passing along the problem of what to do about ride-sharing services.

Taxi vs VTC licenses

  • Taxis. Virtually no new taxi licenses have been awarded in Spain in close to 20 years. In early January there were 65,972 across the country, according to the Public Works Ministry.

  • VTC. These licenses had existed for years in Spain, but their numbers started to soar as companies such as Uber and Cabify entered the market and began to use them to operate. There are currently more than 13,000 in existence nationwide.

English version by Susana Urra.

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