Myth: Brussels has launched an attack on taxi drivers in its White Paper on the future development of the common transport policy. London’s taxi drivers will be affected in that years of acquiring knowledge of the capital’s streets will be abused by an influx of untrained minicab drivers.
Response: The Commission’s paper reads as follows: “As regards taxi services, priority should be given to those markets in which there is real potential for economic gains such as the liberalisation of international taxi services, particularly in frontier regions. At present national and local restrictions frequently oblige operators to run empty when they could be providing a useful service, for instance, on return journeys. However the liberalisation of the trade, for instance through the general opening of cabotage (provision of national services by non-resident drivers) would need to take into account the need for taxi drivers to be “fully aware of the details of local geography”. An examination of the conditions and restrictions imposed on taxi services might nevertheless be useful to see how liberalisation measures might assist the development this new type of service as an alternative to the use of the private car or the usual “one client at a time” taxi service. Flexible minibus services, using modem telematic technology, might enable the “jitney” to make a new contribution to urban and rural transport, including the service and interconnection of terminals in trans-European networks such as high speed train stations and airports. Whether legislative intervention to this end is needed is at this moment unclear; it is possible that other forms of initiative would be as effective, for instance action in the research and development field or non-binding policy instruments.”
In short, the Commission has on the one hand proposed to study whether or not it would be suitable to allow cabotage for those taxi drivers in frontier regions (this would seem unlikely to affect the UK unduly), taking into due account the particular expertise required of drivers. On the other hand, the Commission has also proposed to study technological innovations which could lead to an increased role for taxis in the transport system.