Taxi drivers bring Brussels traffic to a standstill

Summary

Brussels taxi driver federation is again protesting the presence of Uber in the city, and are asking for the mobility minister’s resignation

‘Every man for himself?’

Brussels’ taxi drivers, represented by the Federation of Belgian Taxi Drivers (Febet), are staging a protest today by blocking many streets throughout the capital. All motorists are being advised to avoid the capital today if possible.

Flanders News reports that the drivers started at about 5.00 this morning driving in a slow convoy around the Brussels ring road and have since set up several blockades, including on Keizer Karellaan, the entrance into the city from the E40, and on Fonsnylaan, which runs past South Station.

The drivers, who are reportedly being joined by colleagues from other countries, are protesting the against Brussels mobility minister Pascal Smet’s refusal to ban Uber from the streets of the capital. Uber is the global taxi service that employs residents to use their own cars to provide taxi services to the public through the use of an app.

Uber arrived in Brussels in early 2014. Although it was pronounced illegal by a Brussels court in 2015, it continued to operate, launching a new service called UberX that it said used only “professional drivers”.

Brussels official taxi drivers have always complained that Uber was unfair competition because the drivers are self-employed and do not have to conform to legislation regarding safety or training. Hence the service can be offered much more cheaply than an official taxi.

Febet is demanding not only that Uber be regulated in the same manner as they are but that Smet resign from his post. “This action will hopefully lead to a national debate on the kind of future society in which we want to live,” a Febet spokesperson told De Standaard. “Are we going to strengthen the solidarity between the stronger and the weaker or will it be every man for himself?”

Photo: Thierry Roge/BELGA