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Taxi drivers' demo shuts down central Helsinki

Taxi drivers clogged up central Helsinki taxi ranks on Tuesday to protest a new Transport Code that could have far-reaching effects on cab policy and traffic. Parliament will consider the new bill this week.

Takseja Asema-aukiolla Helsingissä 18. huhtikuuta.
It might be hard to find a cab in central Helsinki today Tuesday. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

Taxi entrepreneurs filled up central Helsinki with cabs this Tuesday to demonstrate what a new proposed Transport Code could do to the taxi industry if passed by Parliament.

The main taxi rank at the Central Railway Station was open for all the country's taxis starting at noon on Tuesday, creating a severe bottleneck of cars.

"The station will be free for all cars nationally until 2 pm," chief Anssi Roitto from Helsinki's taxi drivers' association said on Tuesday morning. "Taxi service providers will in future focus on the high-volume Helsinki city centre areas. This is about testing the infrastructure in terms of taxi station capacity."

The bill, if approved, would slacken pricing and station regulation, and also lower the minimum education requirements for taxi entrepreneurship.

Interoperability snag behind demo

According to Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner, the purpose of the bill is to promote the interoperability of different modes of transport. This way it should be easier to form travel chains of more than one mode of transport, and for new service providers to enter the market.

"In order for mobility as a service to be a possibility, it is essential that the different parts of the transport system are seamlessly interoperable," Berner said on the Ministry website prior to the Code's second phase launch in late 2016.

Meanwhile Roitto says that the new law would pack taxi service providers into city centres, causing widespread congestion.

"There is only room for about 20 cabs at the Railway Station. If they can't fit, they'll still have to wait for customers somewhere," he says.

Roitto says he is unable to estimate how many cars will be in attendance at Tuesday's demo or how it will affect traffic.

Taxi drivers last protested against coming law changes in late March. Almost 200 cabbies turned up, congesting the area around the Senate Square.

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