Barcelona taxi restrictions relaxed for world’s biggest telecoms conference

BARCELONA (Reuters) – Catalonia’s regional government is addressing the problem of long queues for taxis at the world’s biggest telecoms conference, which starts in Barcelona on Monday, by relaxing restrictions on ride-hailing companies like Uber and Cabify.

The Mobile World Congress (MWC) expects to attract about 80,000 delegates from across the world this year but in the past there have been long queues for cabs outside the venue.

Catalan authorities have relaxed rules so ride-hailing cabs from across Spain can operate in Barcelona between Feb.24 and March 7.

In September last year, Spain’s regional governments were told by the central government to issue new rules for private cars transporting passengers hired through mobile platforms such as Uber, Bolt and local rival Cabify, after protests from taxi drivers over unfair competition.

Some regions, such as Madrid and Andalusia, allowed the drivers to continue to operate as before, but others, such as Barcelona, introduced more restrictive measures.

Ignacio Manzano, vice-president of ride-hailing industry body Feneval, said the relaxation of the rules in Barcelona for MWC proved that the city did not have enough taxis during major conferences.

“There is a lack of alternatives to get around in Barcelona since the Catalan government introduced restrictions,” he said in a statement.

“This period of grace is a recognition that the actual restrictions do not represent the interests of the city.”

A spokesman for the Catalan government said an exception has been introduced at the request of Barcelona council for these ride-hailing cabs to provide services for ten days.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by Christina Fincher)