There is already a definitive text of the decree law of the Government to regulate the operation of the VTC (vehicles with driver) in Barcelona for the next two years, extendable for two more. The decree, agreed with the PSC, narrows the fence to vehicles with a driver: it means clearly differentiating the operation of the VTC, for specific or exclusive services, with unprecedented restrictions in Spain; of taxis as a public service. The agreement appeases the taxi drivers, who threatened to blockade the city again if a sector that they consider unfair competition was given a chance; but it has caused the rejection of the sector and platforms such as Cabify, which feign legal resources. The decree also coincides with Uber’s announcement to circulate again with VTC in Barcelona.
The great novelty of the decree law is that the vehicles that operate as VTC must measure a minimum of 4.90 meters: a length that only high-end cars or passenger vans meet. It is an unusual requirement, which is not requested in any other city, indicate sources in the sector. In addition, if they are new cars, they will only be admitted with the 0 or ECO environmental labels, the least polluting. The new requirement for the length of the vehicles, imposed by the PSC to support the decree in Parliament, impacts the majority of the Cabify fleet, passenger cars that do not reach 4.90 meters in length. The most common models in Cabify are the Skoda Octavia, the Hyundai i40 or Ioniq, the Toyota Prius or Avensis, or the Volkswagen Passat. None of them reaches 4.90 meters. The new requirement is met by higher-end models that also operate as VTC, such as the Mercedes E-Class or the Tesla Model S (the Tesla Model 3 does not arrive).
The employers’ association of companies that operate with car licenses with driver, Unauto-VTC, has assured in a statement that the decree “puts a noose around the neck of the sector in Catalonia and eliminates 70% of licenses when Barcelona desperately needs more options of mobility”. The employer quantifies the jobs that the new rule will destroy at 3,000 and ensures that the approval of the decree “will have legal and economic consequences for the claims and compensation of the VTC companies.” Unauto, which considers that the parties have acted for electoralism a year after the municipal elections and accuses “some taxi leaders” of pressuring politicians, does not specify what developments are what will cause the elimination of 70% of licenses or how performs the calculation of lost jobs.
Cabify has expressed its “consternation” in a statement and has been against the decree, accusing the Generalitat of “defending the transport monopoly.” In the note, they assure that “thousands of professionals will lose their jobs” (without quantifying them) and assure that the minimum length requirement is “contrary to the recommendations of the European Commission”, which advocate smaller and lighter cars to promote sustainability. . “70% of the Cabify fleet are ECO or Zero vehicles, but only 1% meet the minimum length of 4.9 meters,” they add.
The decree approved this Tuesday comes after the taxi drivers responded to a draft presented last week threatening that they would go “to war” for what they considered putting the red carpet on the VTC and “whitewashing” breaches such as the controversial pre-reservation of 15 minutes imposed in 2019. The final text, toughened with the contributions of the Socialists, contemplates a severe sanctioning regime (fines of up to 6,000 euros) if the vehicles with a driver fail to comply with the pre-reservation, if they capture customers on the street or if they are companies who travel to the city (without a license) for events such as the Mobile World Congress.
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In addition, they must have a VTC license domiciled in Catalonia and have operated during the last year, contract the same insurance that is required for taxi drivers and have a two-year driving license. In the new text, the city councils or the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona may increase the requirements in terms of pre-booking or training for drivers. Currently in Catalonia there are 4,000 VTC licences, of which between 2,570 and 3,000 have authorization to operate and a car. And of these, only 1,455 served in the last count of the ministry, last February.
The president of the Metropolitan Taxi Institute and also a Socialist Councilor for Mobility in Barcelona, Laia Bonet, defends the decree: “It ends the permanent confusion between taxi and VTC. We do not want to reproduce in Barcelona the wild liberalism and unfair competition that has been installed in cities like Madrid. The taxi is a public service for mobility in the city and the VTCs have to offer another service”. From the Generalitat, the Secretary for Territory and Mobility, Isidre Gavín, defends “the Catalan model of urban transport that considers the taxi a public transport to which certain requirements are requested, and to have as a complement an innovative service, which had little regulation and which if it operates in an uncontrolled way, it distorts the model”.