Uber is back in Barcelona
“Welcome to hell”: the transportation company faces tough opposition from the city’s taxi drivers
Uber is operating in Barcelona again from Tuesday morning under the name UberX, after a three-year gap. In December 2014, a Spanish court in Madrid ordered the platform to stop its activity on the grounds that it had no administrative authorization to operate. Yet, the American transportation company says that there has been public interest shown in the service during the ban in the past few months. According to Uber, around half a million people unsuccessfully asked for an Uber ride last summer in Barcelona, and some 50,000 more tried to use the service during the Mobile World Congress two weeks ago.
But not everyone is happy about the return of Uber. One taxi drivers’ association in the Catalan capital has already announced it will oppose the peer-to-peer ridesharing firm. “Welcome to hell,” was the Elite association’s reaction to the news last week on Twitter. The city’s cab drivers have held several protests and strikes in recent years against such companies, as well as against the new regulation that opened the door for Uber’s return. The local government supported the cab drivers in their complaints against the new service.
The conflict stems from the licences that taxi drivers must have in order to operate, which can cost up to 140,000 euros. When Uber started operating in the whole of Spain, it did so without such licences. That made cab owners complain about “unfair competition.” On December 9, 2014, a high court in Madrid forced the firm to preemptively stop its service because of the “damage” it was causing to the taxi title holders. On the last day of that month, Uber announced it was temporarily ceasing its activity.
Since then, the people wanting to offer their services as Uber drivers have changed their strategy, and are getting licences for professional drivers that are different from the taxi permits. These are called VTC licenses and are much cheaper than those required by official cab drivers. All Uber drivers operating from Tuesday must have such licences and the firm says that it has around 120 people who own one. Yet the cab sector has questioned these figures, claiming that it only has 20 such permits.
According to Uber, its prices in the Catalan capital will be 15% lower than those of city taxis –which can go up by 20% for rides to the airport–, with 16 cents per minute and 1.42 euros per kilometer. The minimum fee is set at 5.50 euros.