Uber's Linea U protests in Rome

Rome taxi drivers oppose Uber's Linea U

Uber's "Linea U" in Rome, an experimental nine-point itinerary for drivers operating cars and mini-buses under the Uber umbrella until 24 December, has raised the ire of Roman taxi drivers.

The stops on the predetermined route, which was decided by a some 50,000 voters on the company's website, include Piazza Euclide in Parioli, Piazza Fiume, Piazza dei Cinquecento, S. Giovanni, Piramide, Stazione Trastevere, S. Andrea della Valle, Castel S. Angelo and Piazza Mazzini in the Prati neighbourhood.

Uber vehicles servicing the U Line pick up people at the fixed locations and drop them off along the circular route which is active each day from 08.00 until 20.00. The flat-rate fare is €5, regardless of time or distance, however passengers can choose to reach their destination without stopping elsewhere along the U line.

The new service has met strong opposition from trade unions representing Rome's taxi drivers who accuse Uber of “brazen arrogance” and claim the Californian firm has “violated all the rules governing the sector.” The unions have requested access to the city's documents granting Uber authorisation to operate the system, as well as calling on Rome commissioner Francesco Paolo Tronca to “stamp out” the initiative which comes during the Holy Jubilee Year of Mercy, a potentially lucrative time for cab drivers in the capital.

The Linea U cars can accommodate up to four passengers while the mini-buses can fit nine people. Users will be informed about waiting times through their downloaded Uber mobile phone app, and the company promises that customers will never have to wait more than five minutes. All payment is electronic and money does not change hands between drivers and passengers.

The low-cost taxi network, which launched in Rome in 2013, works by connecting customers to the nearest available car via a smartphone app, and the service is operated by private drivers who pay a percentage of their fare to the company.

Carlo Tursi, general manager of Uber Italy, says Linea U could become a “permanent reality” if Italy were to adopt the proposed changes to existing regulations governing the taxi sector, as recommended recently by the national transport and competition authorities.

Uber has triggered protests from taxi companies around the world over claims that its service is unfair, illegal, and taking business from regular cabbies. Days after announcing Linea U in early September, Tursi was ambushed by angry Roman taxi drivers who covered his car in fake dollar bills while shouting “Abusivi” at an impromptu barricade.

In July Italian news agency ANSA reported that around 200 taxi drivers chanted “Sold! Sold!” outside a Rome restaurant as Tursi's predecessor Benedetta Arese Lucini dined inside with several parliamentarians.

For full details of the Linea U see the Uber website.