Minicabs challenge taxis' monopoly

By Henry Samuel

With just 18,000 vehicles, the taxi fleet of Paris has remained virtually unchanged since the 1950s. Photo / Getty Images
With just 18,000 vehicles, the taxi fleet of Paris has remained virtually unchanged since the 1950s. Photo / Getty Images

Taxi wars have erupted in Paris as the monopoly long enjoyed by the French capital's notoriously protectionist cabbies is challenged by bookable minicabs.

Parisian taxi drivers get a bad press for being rude, playing loud music, almost never accepting credit cards and turning up for a booked ride with 10 ($16) already on the meter. They are also hard to find.

Martin Pietz, a photographer, said: "One or two drops of rain and there are no taxis at all. When you do stop one, they can be very rude and if it's not on their way home or to lunch they often say, 'Take another one, I'm busy."'

With just 18,000 vehicles, the taxi fleet of Paris has remained virtually unchanged since the 1950s, while London's has swelled to about 23,000 black cabs and 40,000 minicabs. Despite the shortfall, the powerful taxi lobby has successfully fought off repeated attempts to deregulate the industry and bring in minicabs - usually by bringing the capital's main ring road to a halt.

But now the reign of le taxi parisien is under threat because of a change to the law liberalising "tourist vehicles with chauffeurs", or VTCs - the French equivalent of minicabs.

Yan Hascoet, 29, chief executive of chauffeur-prive.com, started with 20 cars 18 months ago and now has a fleet of 320 vehicles, a client base of 15,000 and is seeing 15 per cent week-on-week growth.

"Our drivers are dressed in a suit and red tie, they open the door, make you feel at home in the car, don't blast their own music and don't talk unless talked to - just basic service which is hard to find in France," he said.

VTCs work on reservations and cannot be hailed in the street. But the advent of smartphone applications using GPS means cars can turn up almost at once, enraging taxi unions.

"We have to pay 240,000 for a new taxi licence, and have a strict area where we can work, while they pay just 100 to work where they want and can do what they like," said a spokesman.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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