Prague cabbies in skirmish with police over lucrative taxi-stand

Photo: CTK

Prague City Hall’s legal battle against taxi drivers spilled over into the streets of the capital on Thursday, as taxi drivers clashed with police over a lucrative taxi-stand on Old Town Square. Two taxi drivers were arrested on the spot, two were taken to hospital and several of them may be charged with attacking a civil servant.

Photo: CTK
Prague’s tourist-filled Old Town Square turned into a battleground on Thursday afternoon, as angry taxi drivers tried to defend one of the most lucrative taxi stands in the city centre. Within their war on dishonest taxi drivers and exorbitant fares the city’s authorities ordered this stand changed to a parking lot for disabled drivers and called in the police to physically remove the taxis parked there. As the police started towing away one of the vehicles its driver physically attacked one officer and in the struggle that ensued others cabbies came to his assistance. Within minutes half a dozen officers and taxi drivers were having what appeared to be a free for all, as other drivers booed and shouted insults. The cabbies had come prepared for a confrontation and even had a lawyer present.

Photo: CTK
At the centre of the protracted dispute are the exorbitant fares that the taxi drivers monopolizing the city centre charge and City Hall’s attempts to prevent foreign tourists getting ripped off. After years of complaints from visitors, councillors put their foot down and established a maximum fare: 28 crowns (or 1.40$) per kilometre at the city’s 49 Fair Place taxi stands.

Taxi drivers disregarded the regulation and took the matter to court which ruled that City Hall does not have the right to impose maximum fares. City officials have appealed the verdict and are more determined than ever to stand their ground. However so are the cabbies, who are now getting legal advice and say the decision to change the taxi-stand to a parking lot for disabled drivers was illegal. More battles are about to be fought in court – and given the notoriously slow Czech judicial system – the dispute is likely to drag. Meanwhile, foreign visitors to Prague will have to fend for themselves when making use of the city’s cabbies. A vital piece of advice from City Hall is – make sure you know the going price before entering a cab.