Madrid taxis block access to tourist fair in anti-Uber protests

Police detain a striking taxi driver during an attempt to block M40 highway in Madrid, Spain, January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

MADRID (Reuters) – Hundreds of taxi drivers protested outside one of Madrid’s largest tourist fairs on Wednesday, using their cabs to block access roads and burning rubbish as part of an open-ended strike against Uber and other ride-hailing services.

They have been striking against the services, which offer rides that undercut taxi prices online rather than being hailed in the street, since Monday, complaining that regulations are being ignored with unfair competition.

In September, Spain’s government gave the ride-hailing companies four years to comply with regulations granting them just one new license for every 30 taxi licenses.

“It is not right that after working so many years like we have been, they now just want to sweep us out of the way,” said taxi driver Francisco Sanchez. “They (politicians and ride-hailing services) are all in it together.”

With regions free to adopt their own restrictions, Catalonia plans a bill forcing customers of ride-hailing services to order transport from 15 minutes to an hour beforehand, a government source said.

Striking Barcelona taxi drivers will vote on the proposed restrictions on Wednesday, according to reports.

Unauto VTC, an association representing the ride-hailing services, said taxi sector “blackmail” had “kidnapped” Barcelona.

Reporting by Guillermo Martinez and Paul Day; editing by John Stonestreet

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