Europe News

Europe’s taxi drivers prepare for Uber revolt

The Uber driver app on the windshield of Uber taxi, April 4, 2014, in Washington.
Evelyn Hockstein | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Cities across Europe are set to face gridlock Wednesday as taxi drivers join forces and prepare for co-ordinated international industrial action in protest against taxi hailing apps such as Uber.

Cab drivers are set to strike in London, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Hamburg and as far afield as Chicago and Sao Paulo, according to the German Taxi Association, with many more cities said to be talking part.

Black cab drivers in London initiated the Europe-wide protest, claiming the likes of San Francisco-based Uber are in breach of regulations as the app calculates its fare according to distance and time. Traditional cab drivers say this is the same as taxi meters -- which only they are allowed to use.

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In France, drivers, who have already staged riots and industrial action earlier this year, claim the taxi hailing app creates unfair competition, while the German Taxi Association are arguing that Uber and car sharing apps WunderCar and Lyft fail to respect current regulations.

In London, around 10,000 taxi drivers are expected to congregate in and around centrally located Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square tomorrow afternoon.

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The Metropolitan police in London have urged protesting drivers to get in touch about arrangements of the strike, which they say could cause serious disruption to emergency services and drivers could be at risk of arrest and prosecution.

"Black cabs have been a symbol of London for many decades, known across the world. But symbols, no matter how iconic, cannot be allowed to stand in the way of innovation," said director general of business lobby group, the Institute of Directors Simon Walker.

"Even if the High Court finds the taxi apps in technical breach of the rules, this will not be the end of the matter. The law must, and will, change to allow us to secure all of the undoubted gains that digital technology can bring," he said.

Uber is not currently operating in Madrid, but Spanish taxi drivers are protesting against its imminent launch and the government's lack of regulation on the app.

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Uber, which was valued at close to $17 billion last week, said its service would be operating as normal throughout the protests. "Wednesday will be treated like any other busy period for us," an spokesperson said in an emailed statement to CNBC. "And our teams in all relevant European cities are all set to keep the city moving."

"While the taxi protests may seek to bring Europe to a standstill, we'll be on hand to get our riders from A to B."

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