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Taxi Drivers Blocked Elisabeth Bridge

Hungarian taxi drivers continued to demonstrate against ride-hailing service Uber in Budapest on Tuesday. The drivers blocked traffic in two lanes out of six on Elisabeth Bridge with a demand that Uber be banned and regulations enforced. This is the sixth time Budapest taxi drivers have mounted a demonstration against Uber since January.

Budapest, 2016. május 17. Az Uber személyszállító szolgáltatás ellen demonstráló taxisok Budapesten, az Erzsébet hídon 2016. május 17-én. MTI Fotó: Szigetváry Zsolt

Development ministry state secretary János Fónagy said the government supports taxi drivers who work in line with Hungarian legal regulations and pay tax. Anyone who operates a dispatch hub without a licence or anyone who holds a licence but provides services to drivers who do not hold a licence for passenger transport will be banned from using the relevant electronic data services, including the related website and application, for a set period, he said, outlining the bill.  Under the new amendment, anyone who offers taxi services without a licence will get 9 penalty points and if they are repeat offenders and reach 18 penalty points, their driving licence will be taken away for six months. In the case of a first offence, the vehicle’s licence plate will be taken off for six months and for repeat offenders, the licence plate will be withdrawn for 3 months, he said.

Meanwhile lawmakers held a debate on the bill. Ruling Fidesz part expressed agreement with government efforts to put the market for passenger transport in order. Fidesz said it is unacceptable that some people “drive a taxi on the black market” while others pay tax on transporting passengers legally. If Uber or anybody else fails to observe the law, they have no place on the Hungarian passenger transport market, the ruling party said. Work has begun in recent weeks to prepare strict rules that apply to everyone. Accordingly, drivers of “black-market taxis” will be subject to stringent fines and their licences taken away. Meanwhile, coordinated tax and roadside checks have started, Fidesz added.

The opposition Socialists (MSZP)  said they refused to support the bill and they called for Uber to be regulated properly and safely. The left-wing Democratic Coalition (DK) called for new and fair regulations to be introduced, arguing that over-regulated taxi services operating at centrally fixed fees cannot compete with “unregulated” community-based services such as Uber. Green opposition LMP proposed that centrally-regulated taxi fares should be scrapped. Uber and government representatives should come up with a bill that could ensure that Uber pays taxes in Hungary, LMP said.

Opposition Együtt (Together) party said Uber should be allowed to operate and it should be up to citizens to decide which service they want to use. The Dialogue for Hungary (PM) party called the government’s proposal to ban Uber “incredibly stupid”. Drivers are demonstrating against a new technology when “the real problem” is a decree passed by the Budapest city council that he said prevented taxi companies from being competitive against Uber, PM said. The Liberals suggested the government should hold talks with Budapest taxi drivers and Uber with a view to ensuring that Uber operates legally in the future.

via hungarytoday.hu – hungarymatters.hu and MTI photos: Zsolt Szigetváry – MTI

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