Taxi driver protest brings downtown Lisbon traffic to standstill

Source: Xinhua| 2018-09-20 00:50:04|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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LISBON, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- Taxi drivers brought downtown Lisbon traffic to a standstill on Wednesday in protest at a new law designed to regulate app-based car hire platforms.

Hundreds of taxi drivers from Lisbon and the surrounding area began parking their taxis in bus lanes along Avenida Liberdade, one of the city's main arteries, from 5 a.m .local time. Come rush hour, commuters found the boulevard to be shut off to all traffic except buses (forced to use the regular lanes) and bicycles.

Taxi drivers are angry at a new law drafted to regulate taxi app firms. Popularly known as the "Uber Law", the new legislation applies to the Taxify, Cabify and Chauffeur Prive platforms, as well as Uber.

"We are not anti-Uber per se, we don't object to their drivers making a living," said Fernando Monteiro, who has been a taxi driver in Lisbon for 15 years. "All we're asking for is a level playing field, because the new law just isn't fair, it gives their drivers too many advantages."

Taxi drivers have repeatedly protested that taxi app drivers do not have to comply with industry regulations and licensing standards.

One bone of contention with the new law is the absence of quotas limiting the number of unmarked taxis in a town or region, which marked taxis are subjected to.

Uber was briefly banned by the Court of Lisbon, though the ruling was ultimately overturned. Taxi drivers were promised that the taxi app industry would be regulated. A new law duly passed through parliament July 12, albeit narrowly.

The new law was ratified by Portugal's president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa on July 31 and is due to come into effect Nov. 1. The protesters want to prevent its roll-out and force revisions.

On Monday, the government sent taxi unions suggested amendments to the new rules. This was deemed to be too little too late for many taxi drivers who considered it a hollow gesture aimed at taking the sting out of the protest.

Nevertheless, union leaders organized talks with lawmakers to coincide with the protest. Taxi drivers have pledged to remain where they are parked until the results of those talks are known.

There are estimated to be 1,000 taxis parked up in Lisbon. Similar blockades have been taking place in Porto in the north of the country and Faro in the south.