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TAXIS

Hollande wants UberPop gone as cabbies fight on

French president François Hollande has stepped in to condemn the violent protests by taxi drivers and called for UberPop to be taken off the road. A number of taxi drivers continued their strike on Friday.

Hollande wants UberPop gone as cabbies fight on
French leaders condemned the violence by taxi drivers but also vowed to end UberPop. Photo: AFP
Main events:
 
  • Hollande condemns violence and says UberPop must be declared illegal
  • Interior Minster lodges legal action against Uber for “pursuing an illegal activity”
  • A number of taxi drivers are continuing to protest in western Paris
French President Francois Hollande on Friday condemned violent protests against ride-booking app Uber after taxi drivers
set fire to vehicles and blocked highways but he said the service should be taken off the road.
 
Hollande described the demonstrations, in which US rocker Courtney Love was caught up, as “unacceptable violence in a democracy, in a country like France.”
 
But Hollande, attending an EU leaders summit in Brussels, added: “UberPop should be dissolved and declared illegal.”
 
The service has been illegal in France since January, but the law has proved difficult to enforce and it continues to operate.
 
Around 3,000 cabbies took part in the strike Thursday, blocking access to the capital's Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, and preventing cars reaching train stations around the country.
 
Ten people were arrested, seven police officers were injured and 70 vehicles were damaged in clashes between Uber drivers and taxi drivers.
 
Taxi drivers are furious at what they see as unfair competition from Uber, which puts customers in touch with private drivers at prices lower than those of traditional taxis.
 
 
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said after meeting taxi drivers' unions following a fraught day: “UberPop is an illegal service, it must be closed down.”
 
Until that was done, “the vehicles of UberPop drivers should be systematically impounded when they are openly breaking the law”, the minister said.
 
“Governing the country will never be done by the law of the jungle,” Cazeneuve added.
 
 
On Friday Cazeneuve launched legal action against Uber for continuing an “illegal activity”. The minister denounced the “cynical and arrogant” attitude of the company, which he said operated an “underground and clandestine economy”
 
One of the taxi drivers' representatives, Ibrahima Sylla, described the minister's words as “promises, again” and said the drivers were considering continuing the demonstrations.
 
“What happened on Thursday was an SOS, an alarm cry. We are dying and the state must take its responsibilities,” before calling on French taxi drivers to continue the movement.
 
Most cabbies heeded their unions' calls to return to work on Friday, but around 40 die-hards remained at the busy Porte Maillot junction in western Paris.
 
“The drivers decided to keep up the action because we didn't get anything, only some things to regulate the (drivers) on the black market, which is in any case banned,” said Khalid, a driver.
 

 

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TAXI

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”.  
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