The bus lane will be made available to taxi drivers as of October 4, Transport Minister Alexis Vafeades said on Monday, following the two-hour strike of taxi drivers at the entrance of the city.
In comments to the media on the side-lines of the Cyprus road safety week, Vafeades said that he met with representatives of the drivers following the strike, and they discussed the issues that concern the taxi drivers. He informed them that as of October 4, taxis will be able to use the bus lane created as part of the new park and ride scheme from GSP stadium.
He added that they also discussed the issue of ‘pirate’ unlicensed taxi services and he informed them that the proposed bill has been submitted to the attorney-general’s office.
“I believe that with these actions their requests will be satisfied. The drivers themselves had strong feelings about these issues, but we have done what we had to do and I hope that soon we will have the bill in our hands so that their requests can be satisfied,” the minister said.
Earlier, traffic in Nicosia, which is already a problem, was made worse with the two-hour taxi drivers’ protest in the busiest parts of the city.
Simultaneous measures were also taken in Limassol and at Larnaca and Paphos airports, where a two-hour strike was observed.
The simultaneous protests started at 7am, and in Nicosia a convoy of around 30 taxis drove from the GSP stadium to the Kalispera traffic lights, where they stopped, cutting off the bus lane for a few minutes.
The taxi drivers then headed towards the presidential palace through Athalassa Avenue. From there they made their way towards the transport ministry.
Explaining drivers’ grievances to CyBC, Nicosia urban taxi association chair Pambos Avgoustinos said “the transport ministry ignored our request for a meeting and responded only when we said we were going on strike.”
The taxi drivers main concerns are confusion over being permitted to use bus lanes and the lack of monitoring and fines for unlicensed “pirate” taxis.
Avgoustinos said the drivers received an email on Friday afternoon saying that taxis would be allowed to use the new bus lane while travelling into Nicosia as of Wednesday.
“Today, we are engaging in a peaceful work stoppage because our issues have persisted for years without finding resolutions, only promises,” president of the Cyprus Taxi Drivers Federation Dinos Constantinou said from Limassol, where drivers assembled outside the city’s port passenger terminal.
He added that the transport ministry has been given a 15-day deadline to inform professional taxi drivers about the progress of the issues that concern them.
“Our livelihoods are threatened by pirate drivers who operate unchecked. They enter hotels and airports to pick up passengers without scrutiny, while professional drivers are the only ones subjected to inspections,” he said.
“We will not sit idly by. We will take more assertive measures in 15 days if we do not see solutions to our problems.”
But Transport Minister Alexis Vafeades on Monday told CyBC of his “disappointment at the [drivers’] decision to inconvenience the public”, stating that efforts towards regulating the grievances were already underway and measures would be discussed in parliament in due course.
A bill to regulate ‘pirate’ taxi drivers is currently with the legal service, he said.