BUDAPEST, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Taxi drivers in Hungary’s capital demonstrated on Monday against ride-hailing service Uber, whose growing popularity they find unpalatable amid new regulations setting a fixed tariff for traditional taxi firms that is higher than Uber‘s.
Taxis blocked a major road crossing in central Budapest and drove around in city streets blocking much of the road traffic in the capital’s centre. They said they would stay put until Uber was no longer downloadable to smartphones in Hungary.
Uber Technologies Inc’s service has triggered protests by taxi drivers from London to New Delhi as it upends traditional business models that require professional drivers to pay steep licensing fees to drive cabs.
Late in the afternoon the protest appeared to be weakening with some drivers leaving and those remaining divided about the resolve to continue in the face of police requests to open up the blockade, according to Reuters photographers at the scene.
About 140 vehicles took part in the demonstration, organisers said. Drone pictures by Drone Media Studio, published on the news web site 444.hu, showed a few dozen taxis blocking the thoroughfare.
In a statement posted on Facebook, the organisers demanded that Uber be banned in Hungary and Uber drivers be penalised for what they saw as breaches of the regulations for taxis.
“We stand up for our rights and demand an end to this lawlessness,” the protest organisers said in the statement. “We demand that the Uber application be switched off. Just get it done, period.”
The government will put the issue on the agenda of its meeting on Wednesday and consider all proposals, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff told state news agency MTI.
MTI also reported an Uber statement that said the protest by the taxi drivers underscored the need for new regulation that respects the presence and positive effects of new technologies.
Uber has attracted 80,000 users and 1,200 drivers in Budapest since its 2014 launch in the city, MTI quoted the company as saying last week. (Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Mark Potter)