NEWS

Taxis to face fiercer competition

The number of taxis on the streets of Athens and other Greek cities is set to decrease over the next few years and private companies will be allowed to compete for passengers, according to plans drawn up by the Transport Ministry.

Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas said that the liberalization of the sector is part of an effort to ?modernize and organize the market along the lines of other major European cities.?

?It is also the first time that an open process is being created for people to obtain a taxi permit and to become taxi drivers,? he said while setting out the scheme, which will soon be incorporated in a presidential decree.

However, the reforms will lead to a reduction in the number of taxis as the awarding of permits will be subject to closer scrutiny. According to the would-be law, the number of licenses that will be issued will be calculated every three years based on the population of the city but will also take into account geographical implications and whether it is a tourist destination.

The number of taxis in Athens will be limited to 2.5 per 1,000 residents, while in the rest of Greece, it will be 2 per 1,000. At the moment, there are 4 taxis per 1,000 Athenians. The Transport Ministry said that the current ratio is much higher than other European cities such as Rome, Berlin, Milan, Brussels and Stuttgart, where it ranges between 1.3 and 2.1 taxis per thousand residents.

The ministry said that it would not remove licenses from drivers in order to reduce the number of taxis but would simply not issue new permits in cities where the ratio is already too high.

The changes to the law will also see a limited number of licenses being made available to companies. Their vehicles will not be yellow, like the taxis in Athens, and will be able to have up to nine seats. Passengers will be able to book the private cabs online as well as over the phone.

Taxi drivers had in the past vehemently opposed any plans to liberalize their sector but the combination of dwindling business and a wider program of opening up sectors of the economy that had been closed to the economy, such as road haulage, means that cabbies are now offering little resistance.

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