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Taxis block roads in go-slow protest

Traffic jams for 175km as drivers head for Paris in row over hospital transport and unfair competition

TAXI drivers across the country are organising opération escargot go-slows in protest at plans to open up part of their business to outside competition.

The drivers - there are 55,000 taxis in France, with 17,100 in Paris - say they already face unfair competition from private minicabs and motorbike taxis and fear plans to change rules on hospital transport will put them out of business.

Paris, Marseille, Nantes, Dijon, Lyon, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Nice were targeted along with airport and rail terminals. This morning 11 convoys were causing 175km of traffic jams as they headed from the Paris airports and suburbs to the Champs de Mars and Ecole Militaire for a mass demonstration at noon.

The protests come after plans to cut social security costs last year proposed reorganising hospital and patient transport by asking companies to bid for contracts paid by the Assurance Maladie (state health insurance system).

Taxi drivers say patient transport can account for up to 90% of their business in rural areas and the Fédération Nationale des Artisans du Taxi say they do not have the resources to enter into negotiations for the contracts against companies “such as Veolia”.

Patient transport costs Assurance Maladie €3.5billion a year with 37% of business going to ambulances and 31% to taxis.

However, angry taxi users say that it can already be impossible to find taxis at busy times and one wrote in Le Monde: “People in cities are ready to give up their cars and depend on taxis, but there are no taxis – they are off being ambulancemen.”

A major bugbear for taxi drivers is the boom in the number of véhicules de tourisme avec chauffeurs (minicabs) which do not have to abide by the strictly-regulated laws on taxis. There are about 10,000 VTC and although they are not allowed to tout for street trade taxi drivers say that they “steal” passengers while taxis are forced to wait in authorised ranks.

This afternoon a delegation of taxi drivers will meet officials from the Interior and Health ministries.
Photo: Michael Stumpf - Fotolia.com

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