Uber returns to Barcelona with 350 taxis after 2-year absence

US firm quit Catalan capital after government passed legislation to regulate sector

There have been tensions between taxi drivers and Uber drivers in the past. Image: October 26, 2020 (by Aina Martí)
There have been tensions between taxi drivers and Uber drivers in the past. Image: October 26, 2020 (by Aina Martí) / Cristina Tomàs White

Cristina Tomàs White | Barcelona

March 16, 2021 01:28 PM

Uber is now available in Barcelona since Tuesday, 16 March, with 350 drivers, following a two-year absence from the city.

The American firm quit the Catalan capital in early 2019 after the government brought in legislation to regulate the ridesharing industry.

In November last year, however, sources within the company revealed that they were looking at "working with the taxi sector and public administrations on the sector's recovery in Catalonia."

Uber, stated that, as a result of the company's meetings with the "main associations of the AMB (Barcelona Metropolitan Area)" it had a "commitment to prioritize taxis" on its app within Barcelona.

However, Elite Taxi, a group that represents taxi drivers, greeted Uber's return to the city by tweeting the company 'Welcome to Hell.'

They have also called a protest for taxi drivers on Thursday, March 18, claiming that Uber’s return is “illegal”. The spokesperson for Elite Taxi, Tito Álvarez, has insisted that their 350 drivers “are traitors and we will reject them”.

Uber's departure

Uber, along with the Spanish ridesharing company Cabify, suspended their services in Barcelona in January 2019, following a government decree which Uber said was "totally incompatible" with its business.

The regulations stipulate that passengers must pre-book the service at least 15 minutes in advance, that vehicles return to base immediately after completing a journey, and prohibits on-street parking.

Cabify returned to Barcelona in March 2019 with 300 cars in operation, having accepted the regulatory conditions set by the government.

In July 2019, a Catalan court blocked Barcelona from implementing a 60-minute waiting period between bookings for ridesharing cabs.

Tensions between taxi drivers and ridesharing companies in the past have seen protests and some attacks on Uber and Cabify drivers.