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200km of jams in taxi protest

Péripherique at a standstill as drivers mount go-slow into centre of Paris in row over minicabs

NEARLY 200km of traffic jams blocked rush-hour traffic in Paris this morning as several hundred taxi drivers mounted a go-slow protest from Charles-de-Gaulle Airport into the centre of the capital.

They were protesting about “unfair competition” from minicabs called VTCs (voitures de tourisme avec chauffeurs) which they say are stealing their customers and jobs, and also about the rise in VAT from 7% to 10%.

Around two thousand taxis were expected to take part in the protest which was being mirrored in Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille and Montpellier.

The protest started at 6.00 when dozens of taxis started to arrive at the airport taxi ranks at Charles-de-Gaulle and Orly but only the taxis from Roissy set off en masse around 8.00, with drivers at Orly preferring to blockade the airport.

Traffic agency Bison Futé said at 9.00 that there was just short of 200km of jams and the Péripherique was at a complete standstill between Saint-Cloud, Porte Maillot and La Villette.

The taxis were heading for Les Invalides in the centre of Paris to hold a mass demonstration to highlight their demands.

Drivers say that they can pay up to €230,000 for a licence plus around €2,500 to fit out the vehicle whereas VTC drivers just have to sign up with French tourism agency Atout France and pay a €160 fee. VTC drivers also do not have the same mass of regulation as taxis and the protesting drivers say that many, such as the Google-backed American company Uber, are owned by multinationals which destroy French jobs.

Passengers cannot hail VTCs in the street and must phone for a hire – with the government enforcing a 15-minute delay between the call and the pick-up in an effort to appease the taxi lobby – although the taxis say this is widely ignored.

The competition watchdog Autorité de la Concurrence has attacked the 15-minute delay, saying there are not enough taxis on the street to cope with demand and the VTCs fulfill a vital role, especially in Paris. There are 50,000 taxis in France and 10,000 VTCs.

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