‘French public should support their taxi drivers’

A taxi drivers’ union leader tells The Local why Thursday’s nationwide protests against Uber are justified and why the public should get behind them.

'French public should support their taxi drivers'
The French public should ger behind these protesting taxi drivers. Photo: AFP

Almost 3,000 taxi drivers brought cities across France to a standstill on Thursday in a nationwide protest against UberPop – a ride sharing app that puts customers in touch with private drivers at prices lower than those of traditional taxis.

While the app is proving popular with the French public – with latest figures showing 400,000 users across the country – licensed cabbies say the service is endangering their jobs by flooding the market with low-cost drivers creating vastly unfair competition.

The real source of their frustration is the fact that UberPop has been banned in France since January, but courts have allowed the service to continue to operate until a final ruling is due in the autumn.

Despite repeated government assurances that UberPop is “completely illegal” the app was recently rolled out in more cities.

Abdelkader Morghad, from the National Federation of Independent Taxi drivers told The Local on Thursday why the protests were necessary and why the public should support French taxi drivers in their battle against private minicabs (VTCs).

(Photo: AFP)


''This has been going on for around two years. We called for VTCs to be regulated and the government introduced a clear law. It’s there, it’s a fair law, but it’s not being imposed.

“UberPop is illegal and they say they are carrying out checks and stopping UberPop drivers, but controls are one thing, they need to apply the law, which means drivers caught by police would be subject to fines.

“Taxi drivers and private minicab drivers are the same, it’s the same career so why are the rules different for us? UberPop drivers don’t pay taxes, social security contributions, VAT or their license fee, which in Paris costs us €190,000. They just put their money in their pocket.

“How can you explain that? That’s the real frustration for us. UberPop is completely illegal in France, but people are still able to download the app and drivers are still able to pick them up and earn money.

“When we explain to the public about the differences in the rules for VTC drivers, they understand that it’s just not fair. 

And the violence? 

“We are not striking for pleasure. I am losing money today.

“Of course the public don’t like a strike. A strike is never popular, but there comes a moment when we have to express our anger and that’s the way it is. It’s normal.

“We are very much against violence. We understand the frustration of drivers but we call for calm. We have nothing against the Uber drivers themselves, just against the authorities who are allowing them to break the law.

“We warned them this would happen, because the frustration has been building up for years. There is a big problem that needs fixing and that’s why you have scenes like today.

(Photo: AFP)

Why should the public support you?

“We are just calling for the same rules for everyone. If the public don’t want us to be more expensive than an Uber car then they should just demand that everyone pays the same costs.

“It’s like if people go to McDonalds and pay €8 for a sandwich and then I turn up and sell the exact same sandwich outside for €4, of course the people are going to be happy. But Mr McDonald won’t be and he would have to cut staff.

“For every €100 we earn, €47 goes to the state. There are taxi drivers who work seven days a week, 11 hours a day but they still can’t pay their bills or their taxes. Across the board we have seen a 30 percent drop in our earnings.

“UberPop drivers don’t pay VAT, they don’t pay their social security payments to the state. Imagine if we all worked like that. There would be no schools, no hospitals, no motorways.

“The French feel strongly about their social welfare system. It’s a system they want but these UberPop drivers pay nothing towards it. If no one did, there would be nothing left. Everything would be private.

But the public have a negative view of taxi drivers

“There are 25,000 taxi drivers in Paris, of course there will be a few bad ones, but we have a disciplinary process to deal with them.

“People talk about VTC drivers, but 80 percent of them are ex-taxi drivers who were either not good enough or couldn’t afford to work as a taxi driver.

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Paris aims to beat Olympic traffic with flying taxis

Paris aims to give visitors to the 2024 Paris Olympics a flying start by offering airborne taxis to tournament sites straight from the airport.

Paris aims to beat Olympic traffic with flying taxis
An Airbus image showing what the taxis might look like. Photo: Airbus
Arrivals in the City of Light currently face an hour-long haul by train or bus into town from Charles de Gaulle airport to the north of Paris.
But if Aeroports de Paris (ADP), Airbus and the RATP regional transport have their way passengers, right after their jets have taxied to a halt on the runway, will be able to take to the air once again with a self-flying urban taxi of the future.
The firms used this past week's Paris Air Show to say the Olympics afforded the perfect opportunity to bring into service futuristic Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) machines, and that they would launch a feasibility study.
“In 2010, for the first time, more than half of humanity was living in urban zones and we think we shall surpass 60 percent by 2030,” said Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury.
The time had now come to vault up to “the third dimension” of local commutes — air, he said.
“If we have the conviction that in the next five, 10, 15, 20 or 30 years low altitude is a space to be conquered we have to put in place the conditions today,” said ADP Group's executive director general Edward Arkwright.
VTOL converts are already sprouting in number as the world looks to move beyond — or rather, above — today's saturated motorways and growing environmental concerns.
Back on the ground, the view has been muddied by a delay beyond the Games, to 2025, of the express fast train designed to cut congestion and travel time between Charles de Gaulle airport and the city centre. 
For aircraft manufacturer Airbus, airport manager ADP and RATP, which manages Parisian public transport services, the Games are a chance to showcase French savoir-faire in urban mobility.
Multitude of projects
ADP has until the end of the year to choose a site for a “Vertiport” capable of hosting taxis from one of 10 aerodromes in the region around Paris.
The idea is to have the venue ready in 18 months, requiring infrastructure investment of some ten million euros ($11.3 million), says Arkwright. He adds the project will test out the link “via an existing helicopter corridor”.
Ideally, the service would see the taxis take off every six minutes.
In order to make VTOL a reality by 2024, ADP is working alongside Airbus, which has for some years been involved in full electric propulsion urban mobility schemes.
The manufacturer already has two prototype models — the single-seater “Vahana” and the four-seater variant “CityAirbus”.
Faury explained that “the two projects will converge towards a vehicle that will respond to first cases of use.”
“This partnership is a unique opportunity to develop technological solutions, a product, a regulatory framework, an economic model,” Faury added.
'Important stage'
“This project reduces constraints not only in terms of infrastructure but also concerning air traffic as it involves experimenting in a specific (air) corridor,” said Jean-Louis Rassineux, head of aeronautics and defence issues for Deloitte. “It is large scale rollout which is going to be complicated,” Rassineux told AFP.
Along with required progress on battery power and anti-collision detection he said there were “constraints regarding compatibility and traffic regulation.” 
But there is also the issue of the extent to which the concept will gain widespread public acceptance.
Rassineux warned there would need to be “security levels as stringent as those for air traffic” as well as “real value added to existing transport” systems.
Deloitte estimates the size of the airborne taxi market at some $17 billion for the United States alone through to 2040.
Yet “there remains some way to go before a flying vehicle becomes integrated into urban transport,” cautioned France's transport minister, Elisabeth Borne.
Borne nonetheless sees moves towards creating an embryonic service in time for the 2024 games as “one of the important stages” towards “the emergence of a complete transport offering” which would be “integrated and which respects the environment”.