By Peter Stevenson
PARALIMNI area taxi drivers blocked off the main road in Protaras from 10am to 11.30am on Tuesday to protest against competition from the local bus service.
They 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.
Head of Famagusta taxi drivers’ association, Giorgos Machattos told the state broadcaster that following a meeting last month with the head of the Road Transport Department (RTD) Soteris Kolettas, taxi drivers were assured a solution would be found.
“Discussions took place and we looked into possibly re-routing certain bus services to help taxi drivers but research showed that on average 3,000 people use the bus in the area per day and any changes would adversely affect the public using these services,” Kolettas said.
Taxi drivers have an issue with the local bus service, OSEA’s night service, which is popular with locals and tourists. They say the four summer months provide them with the majority of business throughout the year and that the bus service is preventing them from making a living.
Head of personnel at OSEA, Panicos Amirgaias told the Cyprus Mail that the bus company was going about its business as usual, providing a public service, and had nothing against taxi drivers.
“The relevant authorities are responsible for solving any problems, and taxi drivers and bus companies should not take it upon themselves to try to solve these issues themselves,” he said.
Amirgaias said the number of bus passengers was increasing every month, especially young people and especially during the summer months when they can go out for a drink and head home during the early hours, without having to worry about drink driving.
“We carried out a survey on a Wednesday and a Saturday in July and found we had a total of 18,000 passengers on our buses during those two days proving that the public prefer using buses as they are cheaper and more convenient,” Amirgaias said.
Taxi drivers are only inconveniencing the public according to Amirgaias, who expressed the hope that a solution could be found.
Machattos said that he hoped the two services could co-exist but added that taxi drivers would continue to block roads until their demands are met.