June 30, 2020 / 11:25 AM / 3 days ago

Madrid taxi drivers demand fleet limits amid weak demand

Taxi drivers stand in front of the Alcala Gate as they take part in a protest calling on city hall to regulate and limit the number of taxis circulating every day due to falling demand as a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Madrid, Spain June 30, 2020. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

MADRID (Reuters) - Thousands of taxi drivers took to the streets of Madrid on Tuesday, honking their horns and clogging up the roads around city hall to demand a limit on the number of vehicles allowed to operate amid a post-lockdown slump in demand.

During Spain’s strict coronavirus confinement only half of the capital’s 16,000-strong fleet was in circulation on any given day. But since the state of emergency ended on June 21 they have returned en masse, while demand remains weak.

“As the work has dropped off so much, we are demanding that they stop letting all the taxis out on the same day,” said taxi driver Jose Antonio Carnero, resting in the shade of Madrid’s tree-lined Recoletos boulevard. “Let half of us out one day, and the other half on the next day.”

Madrid’s Federation of Professional Taxi Drivers, which called the protest, said the sudden return to full activity was creating air pollution and unnecessarily exposing its members to the coronavirus.

“The taxi ranks are all full and if you stop on the street around the official stops the police fine you,” taxi driver Pedro Bustamante told Reuters. “So you have to drive round and round the city wasting fuel and polluting.”

With more than 28,000 deaths and nearly 250,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, Spain is one of Europe’s worst hit countries. It has brought the virus’ spread largely under control but the economic consequences are set to last far longer.

In recent weeks groups ranging from health professionals and hospital cleaners to fairground workers and coach drivers have protested to demand better working conditions.

Reporting by Nathan Allen and Guillermo Martinez; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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