By Poly Pantelides
TAXI drivers in the Paralimni area blocked the tourist area’s main artery of Protaras avenue on Thursday to protest against competition from buses.
“Buses should not use the main Protaras Avenue so that taxi drivers’ jobs are not undermined,” said the head Famagusta taxi drivers’ association, Giorgos Machattos.
“There is no competition between buses and taxis, but there is a monopoly since customers choose buses over taxis because of (buses’) low fares,” Machattos said.
Taxi drivers want buses to bypass Protaras Avenue that lies just off one of the area’s most popular beach stretches, and instead use Cape Greco Avenue that is parallel to Protaras Avenue and further away from the beach.
The association said three more taxi stands could enable 15 more cars to serve tourists who are currently choosing buses over taxis. This will “create new prospects for the profession, which has viability problems,” Machattos said.
Representative of shopkeepers in Protaras Lefteris Kafkalias said they were supporting taxi drivers because buses were noisy and “hugely inconvenient because of the constant comings and goings’. They also complained about high-powered trucks in Protaras’ tourist hub.
Kafkalias said that Protaras avenue was built to facilitate tourists and ensure they could move about safely.
Famagusta buses are in fact a favourite with tourists and Cypriots who use them to travel between the main town and their communities. Children under the age of 12, school students, soldiers and Cypriot pensioners with a social card can use buses for free.
Paralimni deputy mayor Andreas Economou said the municipality was in touch with the communications ministry to ensure that public transportation was not abolished “but also that professional taxi drivers do not experience problems”.
Famagusta taxi drivers have previously demanded buses raise their fares and run less often, to protect their profession. Communications minister Tasos Mitsopoulos said bus routes are the responsibility of the relevant bus company, in this case the Famagusta district transport organisation OSEA, as long as the companies as within the framework of their agreements with the state. “Routes are not set by the ministry,” Mitsopoulos said. The Cyprus Mail could not reach an OSEA representative for comment.