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VTC futures reach their key week with half autonomy without regulation

Next October 1, VTC, driverless vehicles will be marked before and after. This day marks the fourth anniversary of the “Abalos Ordinance”, a regulation approved by the previous Minister of Transport that gave autonomous communities time to legalize this type of mobility in their territories. Problem? that not everyone has.

To date, Aragon, Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, the Basque Country, Galicia, the Community of Valencia, Murcia, Madrid and Navarre have approved some type of regional regulation, and Andalucía will complete its own by next week. Municipalities can also regulate as long as they have competence in transport. And this is another point of contention: four years after former minister José Luis Abalos’s family order, administrations and operators continue to publicly discuss who should legislate on VTCs.

Regulation of these types of vehicles has been murky, confined to the courts for years. Until 2009, the legal framework stipulated that there could be only one such vehicle for every 30 taxis. A ratio of 1/30, which was abolished that year and reintroduced by Mariano Rajoy’s government in 2015. However, those six years without a limit on VTCs were enough to end the issuance of licenses in the Supreme Court, which. The green light turned on thousands of cars and meant that this ratio, which should be met in theory, does not actually exist.

Today, throughout Spain, There are approximately 60,000 taxi licenses and over 17,500 VTC licenses. According to the latest data published by the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, in Madrid, where there are more vehicles of this type, there are 14,755 taxi licenses and 8,463 VTC licenses. Back, Andalusia with 3202 and Catalonia with 2824 licenses. At a considerable distance, the Illes Balears and the community of Valencia, more than 600. 200 or less in other autonomous communities.

A decree approved by the government four years ago stated that unless communities or local units legalize it by October 1, 2022, VTCs will only be able to operate long-distance routes. “Territorial administrations are the ones who know the specific needs of each territory,” the Ministry of Transport said. “They can make the most appropriate decisions for their population, taking into account a whole range of elements, which include the mobility strategy, the fight against climate change, depopulation, taxi characteristics or the lack of transport.” , listed.

The Ministry emphasizes that the 2018 Royal Decree gave regional governments broad rights to change the conditions of operation of VTCs in their territories, including conditions such as advance contract, service requirements, customer attraction, minimum and maximum routes. , mandatory service or tourism schedule and technical characteristics. It also determined that these vehicles, at the national level, can only carry out long-distance transport. “They had enough time to approve the regulation that they consider the most appropriate,” emphasizes the ministry headed by Raquel Sánchez. And if they don’t legislate, they can continue as they are now. That is, autonomous governments that do not have legislation, if they want to have a VTC, can proceed with what is prescribed in the “Abalos Decree”. They have a week to do so if they want everything to remain the same. They can also do it later and resume this type of transportation service later.

“The autonomous communities had to be held accountable from the first moment,” says José Manuel Berzal Andrade, national executive president of Unauto, one of the employers’ associations in the sector. In his opinion, the only society that was “brave” is Madrid. “Now we are working with Andalusia, which has its own characteristics. In fact, the disparity of criteria between the taxi sector and the VTC sector became clear this week. “From here there is an opposite text, which is the Catalan text, which is absolutely restrictive and makes it impossible to continue the action, because these are very restrictive conditions”, emphasizes Berzal Andrade.

“They are like polar opposites and define two completely different visions of mobility,” a spokesperson for one of the sector’s operators points out about how he sees Madrid’s VTC compared to Catalonia’s. The region, chaired by Isabel Díaz Ayuso, approved a new transport law in June that allows VTCs to continue operating as before. Nothing changes and Cabify, Uber or Bolt will continue to circulate. The Madrid Assembly approved it with the votes of PP and Vox in one reading, without debate in committee or amendments by groups. Now you will have to develop a regulatory framework that does not have a date. Associations of taxi drivers opposed the regulation adopted by Isabel Díaz Ayuso’s government.

However, the last word has not been said. A few days ago, “United We Can” challenged this law in the Constitutional Court, understanding that “it does not take into account the minimum legal requirements and clearly violates the municipal powers in matters of urban transport, giving the right to implement urban transport to all VTCs with national authorization.” In the city. Community of Madrid”. Again, the question of who has the authority. “If they cared about Madrid, they wouldn’t ask taxi drivers to kill themselves for 24 hours to compete with the €10 Uber,” said United We Can’s deputy speaker in Madrid’s assembly, Alejandra Jacinto.

On the other side of the coin, Catalan legislation. In July, the government approved a new regulation that requires VTCs in Barcelona’s metropolitan area to be longer than 4.9 meters, be vehicles with a ZERO or ECO label – which not all vehicles comply with – and drivers to have held their license for more than two years.

The presence or absence of regional regulation is not the only issue on the table. There is another one that again includes the administration and the operators, the companies that hold the licenses that they later manage under Cabify, Uber or Bolt. The same “Abalos Ordinance” opened the door for licensees to request a four-year extension of the authorization period – the same period that communities had to regulate – if they felt they did not have enough time to pay. These permits, licenses, what they cost to open VTCs.

In total, the Ministry received more than 16,600 requests for extension of the deadline, which were not granted. And this is where the High Court of Justice of Madrid came in, realizing that this procedure should not be carried out by the public company INECO, but by the officials of the Ministry itself. 6,619 of these requests correspond to the scope of the Community of Madrid – because there they will continue to function as before – which will be considered individually. So far, more than 4,000 have been resolved and more than 3,900 have been released. Those approved may act for additional terms of 1 to 16 years, but always under conditions set by the autonomous community where they do so.

This temporary expansion framework is not enough for companies, because they understand that the pandemic and the restriction of mobility represented a significant change in business, which was not covered by the “Abalos decree” and which they could not recover. investment made. For this reason, they requested two more years, in this additional period of licenses, which the Ministry rejected.

Cabify refers to an analysis carried out by researchers at the University of Barcelona, ​​based on information from the companies that make up this group. According to the aforementioned analysis, “the initial four-year period estimated by the Ministry of Transport would have been insufficient even without the pandemic, because according to their estimation, the full recovery of investments in VTC licenses, which the transition period should allow, would have required 16. years, which the pandemic would have lasted up to 18 years”. “What the report argues is that they had the right to apply within the deadline, and many of these resolutions can go through contested channels,” said Marc Tares, a professor of administrative law at the University of Barcelona and one of the authors. of this account.

This opens up another avenue through the courts for the VTC, if they go, to seek an extension of time denied by the Ministry. And after that, another claim for property damage. “I see that he has traveled to the autonomous communities where he cannot continue to function, it may take three or four years, but there should be a long court road,” asserts the professor. “There are two phases: one, whether it is recognized or not, whether they were entitled to temporary authorization or not; Second, once this right is recognized, estate claims can be raised. And who will pay? There is no agreement there either, as the various sources consulted indicate that it may be the state or the communities. First, because it is who drafted the Royal Decree of 2018 and who did not approve the temporary extension of licenses. Second, because they had time to legislate and allow VTCs to continue circulating in their area, and again, not all of them did.

Source: El Diario





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