Taxi drivers to block airport

A protest against Uber is planned for Monday morning

Prague taxi drivers are planning to block roads leading to Václav Havel Airport Prague by taking up all traffic lanes and driving slowly, as part of their ongoing protest against competition from Uber drivers.

The airport issued a statement on its website.“Due to the announced protest ride of taxi drivers planned for Monday 2 October 2017 10:00 AM, which could affect the access road to Václav Havel Airport Prague, we advise passengers coming to the airport by car to plan their journey allowing enough time or rather use public transport bus lines, such as 119 (from Nádraží Veleslavín metro station), 191 (from Petřiny or Anděl metro stations) or 100 (from Zličín metro station). If you are arriving by car, please follow traffic signs and instructions provided by the Police of the Czech Republic,” the warning said.

“We would like to assure passengers, that working with the Police, we intensely look for ways of solving the situation. Unfortunately, we are affected by protests where Prague Airport cannot actively contribute to solving the reason for the dispute,” the statement continued.

The airport also pointed out that the protest only points out the need for other routes to reach the airport. Tram and train links have long been discussed but not implemented.

“At the same time, there is no other option of accessing the airport than by road transport due to the missing railway connection. Therefore, long-term, the airport management has supported the project of connecting the airport with Prague city center by rail. Unfortunately, it remains in the role of the recipient of the solution provided by the State through SŽDC (the Railway Infrastructure Administration). The management, however, provides due co-operation in regard to the matter with the goal to accelerate the project implementation,” the statement added.

The airport management also says there is no need for the protest.

“We consider the planned protest held on Václav Havel Airport Prague access roads to be an attempt to harm an international airport. Disputes between Prague taxi drives and the Uber company will be discussed by a group of experts led by the Government Commissioner for Digital Agenda on Thursday (Oct. 5). As the dialog has already started, we do not see a reason for the taxi drivers to obstruct the operations of an international airport and risk preventing on-time departures of travelers from all over the world,” the statement concluded.

Protests by taxi drivers against Uber drivers began Sept. 15. The taxi drivers complain that the same conditions do not apply to Uber drivers compared to taxi drivers.

Taxi drivers say Uber violates the law because drivers don't have a taxi-service license, the cars are not registered as taxis, and they don't have meters. Uber cars often have no luminous taxi top sign or other required signs.

Uber uses a cell phone app, and drivers use their own cars to pick up passengers.

Many people who have lived in Prague for a long time do not see the taxi drivers as having higher ground in the dispute. The issue of taxis overcharging people goes back for decades and many City Hall administrations have tried to tackle the issue. In April this year signs were put up near popular tourist spots to warn people against taking standing cabs and informing people of the proper rates. One sign warned that taxi drivers often charge more than 10 times the official rate, making it one of the highest in Europe.

In 2015, the Czech News Agency reported that one in three taxi drivers overcharged, based on spot checks made by city inspectors.

In January 2005 then-mayor Pavel Bém dressed up as an Italian tourist and was charged five times the official rate for a short trip to Prague Castle. In another cab, he was charged double for paying in euros.

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