The protests by taxi drivers against the planned new bus services from the airport to certain tourist resorts brought parts of Palma to a temporary standstill yesterday, though the impact was less than had been predicted.
The march of some 700 demonstrators from the transport ministry to the presidential headquarters of the Consolat de la Mar led to traffic restrictions between 11.00 and 12.30 in the area of the Born and the Passeig Sagrera. The caravan of taxis, some 400 cars, that set off from Son Moix around the same time meant that the Paseo Mallorca and Jaume III were closed to traffic for a while.
At the Consolat, where the two protests came together, the chief spokesperson for the taxi drivers (four associations in all were involved in the action) relayed a message to the accompaniment of car horns and calls for President Armengol to resign. Gabriel Moragues said that there will continue to be protests until the government gives up its plan for the bus services. The taxi drivers are threatening to hold more demonstrations and to stop work over Easter. Stoppages would be at the start and end of Holy Week and also at night throughout the whole Easter period.
Driver representatives met again with the transport director-general Jaume Mateu in the morning, once more stating their opposition to the buses on the grounds that they will cause harm to drivers' businesses and that they will be discriminatory where residents are concerned. The drivers believe that equal rights between residents and tourists should mean that bus services all pass through the intermodal station in Palma. There cannot be direct routes to resorts while public transport for residents is centred on the city (and therefore the intermodal station).
Mateu insisted that the government is not looking to harm the taxi sector but to make improvements to public transport that will bring it into line with what is provided in other tourist destinations. He suggested that the impact of the bus services will not be great, noting government calculations that these services will mean some 800,000 passengers. Between them, he added, taxis and transfer buses last year moved some 26 million passengers. There will be no "disaster" for the drivers, given this volume of passengers.
Meanwhile, President Armengol said that the right to transport is a right for the citizens that the government intends to defend and guarantee. Like Mateu, she observed that the absence of direct bus services was an odd exception in Majorca. "For both residents and tourists, it is fair to have public transport at the airport that connects other parts of Majorca." She concluded by adding that the government is looking to arrive at agreements and necessary consensus with the taxi sector.
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