by Greg Dickinson, The Telegraph, July 30, 2018
Taxi drivers in Barcelona, Madrid and other cities in Spain have brought roads to a standstill at the height of the tourist season in a strike against “unfair competition” from ride-sharing apps like Uber and Cabify.
Drivers in Barcelona began an indefinite strike on Saturday (July 28), with taxi drivers in Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Alicante, Málaga, Zaragoza and La Rioja striking in solidarity soon after.
In Barcelona, the striking taxi drivers blocked access to the city centre and roads to the airport. Photographs show drivers sitting in camping chairs in the middle of the Gran Via on Saturday, while some spent the night in their cars or in tents.
The protests began on Wednesday last week to oppose a judge's decision that permitted ride-hailing companies like Uber and Cabify to operate in the city without additional authorization.
Aena, which operates a number of airports in Spain, warned that there are a number of airports, including Barcelona el Prat, that did not have a taxi service due to the strikes.
It is unclear when the taxi strike action will end. To avoid possible disruption when travelling to and from the airport, visitors to Barcelona can take the RENFE train - a service which runs approximately every 30 minutes. Madrid's Barajas Airport is also connected to the capital's Metro system.
While the protests were largely peaceful, some people were reportedly seen surrounding and kicking Uber and Cabify vehicles in Barcelona.
In a video posted by El Economista on Instagram, a car is surrounded by protesters who kick the vehicle and spray it with paint.
Following the confrontations, Uber and Cabify suspended all services in Barcelona. In a statement, Uber Espana said: "Passenger and driver safety is our number one priority. As a result of the serious aggressions recorded today, the entire sector of the VTC we have decided to temporarily suspend the service in Barcelona." Normal service resumed again on Friday.
Today Pedro Saura, the state secretary for infrastructure, transportation and housing, meets with Spain’s taxi associations including Fedetaxi, Elite Taxi and Antaxi. He will then meet with representatives from ride-sharing apps Uber and Cabify tomorrow.
The National Transportation Conference, originally scheduled to take place in September, will now take place on Wednesday. It is expected that the government will propose granting regional authorities the power to manage the distribution of VTC licences, which firms like Uber and Cabify operate under.
On the UK Foreign Office website the general advice relating to protests in Barcelona is: "There have been large gatherings of people in Barcelona and other areas of the Catalonia region in relation to the political developments there. Further gatherings and demonstrations are likely to take place.
"They may occur with little or no warning and even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can escalate and turn confrontational. You should exercise caution if you’re in the vicinity. Demonstrations may also cause some disruption and delays to transport services."
The FCO adds: "Over 19 million British nationals visited Spain last year. Most visits are trouble-free."