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City Hall: Taxis only new, yellow and clean

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A taxi ride in Prague should become more relaxed. No more old Škodas or Volhas. A new City Hall regulation allowing taxis to be no more than eight years old will come into effect on 1 January.

The rules of the new Prague regulation are uncompromising: Those who want to park by the city taxi stands will need to have yellow, cars regardless of their company.

The car has to fall at least within the lower-middle category, it must have at least four-seats, and it must be clean and have air conditioning.

A number of taxi drivers have not yet changed their cars and are planning a protest in front of City Hall in January.

The changes will also concern the drivers themselves. They are not allowed sportswear such as sweatpants, T-shirts or shorts with a pronounced logo or slippers. It is also forbidden to smoke or wash the car by the stands.

“It is a standard requirement to create a safe environment and increase the comfort of customers,” said Jiří Bureš, secretary of City Hall committee for taxi service solutions.

Fines will be high. If inspectors discover any violation of the rules the amount could reach CZK 750,000.

Taxi drivers were trying in vain to cancel the regulation. They complained at the Interior Ministry but failed. They will decide the form of the protest in the middle of January. “There are two possibilities. Either a protest ride through Prague or we will all stand in front of City Hall,” said Pavel Jelínek, head of the taxi drivers union.

Just a couple of days after the taxi protest, more transportation troubles are looming. Some railway employees and public transport drivers are planning to go on strike over tax benefits and meal vouchers.

City Hall civil servants decided on the new taxi regulations based on a survey of Prague taxis. The results of the survey show that 40% of cars are more than 20 years old and 3% are older than 30 years. “These cars cannot guarantee today’s safety standards and the comfort of passengers,” said Jiří Bureš.

Taxi drivers: it’s an order

Taxi drivers protest. “City Hall only dictates conditions and hinders our business,” said Jelínek.

He thinks a number of drivers have not changed their cars because they are waiting to see what the situation will be like after the 1 January. “The operators are not all painting their cars yellow either. Companies want to differ from one another,” Jelínek said. According to the regulation, they can only choose from five specified shades of yellow.

Drivers addressed by Hospodářské noviny confirm that there is no great car change underway. “I am 62 and will retire in August. I don’t know why I should change my car. It is 12 years old but it has air-conditioning and is in good condition,” said a Volkswagen Passat driver.

Change only for some

City Hall rules have a number of gaps. They will not be applicable to all cars transporting people. Some taxi stands do not belong to City Hall but to the city’s road authority (TSK). These account for almost half of them, especially outside the city centre. There, the taxi drivers with old cars will be allowed to park.

The first paragraph of the regulation specifies that the rules only apply to “the stands owned by the capital city”. Unfortunately for the drivers, TSK only has some five stands in the centre.

Companies that provide a service driving drunk drivers in their own cars while a sober driver sits behind the wheel are excluded from the regulation.

Taxi drivers for themselves

The regulation will not apply to private transport providers offering airport transportation. Their services need to be booked and their cars do not stand at city taxi stands.

Most of the big taxi companies will not finance the car exchange. Drivers working for them use their own cars and so it will be their job to ensure their cars are in line with the new rules. Drivers often only hire a radio, which provides secure wages through the operator. They pay some CZK 20,000 a month and the rest goes into their pocket.

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.

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