Friday 24 October 2014

Europe's transport workers protest

Published 11/06/2014 | 15:42

Commuters walk on a platform at the Gare St Lazare station in Paris as French rail workers strike to protest against plans to open the railways to competition. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Cabbies and train workers walked off the job, leaving traffic stuck in some of Europe's biggest cities.

The protest was over changes to the travel industry that transport workers say could endanger passengers and give untested upstarts an unfair advantage.

Travellers in France faced the brunt of the strike, with the Paris commuter rails and the national train network down to one-third its usual capacity at the same time as taxis refused to take fares and blocked major highways leading into the French capital by travelling at a snail's pace. Taxi drivers staged similar protests in London, Berlin, Barcelona and Madrid.

Taken together, the concerns reflect growing upheaval in the travel and transport industry, largely due to technologies that have made things easier for travellers but which have caused workers to voice concerns about safety - and their jobs.

One of the changes being protested about is allowing passengers to hail a ride from a mobile app. Taxi drivers complain this is unfair and that drivers of the private services do not face the same training or licensing requirements.

Uber has been banned in Brussels, and come under scrutiny in Spain, but the European Union is pushing for acceptance, saying it benefits consumers. Apparently timed for the strike, Uber released an app directed at London customers, offered free rides to some customers in Paris and half off in Berlin.

Other changes include subway lines becoming automated and online travel booking devastating the jobs of travel agents.

Press Association

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