PARIS (AFP) — French cabbies clogged city streets from Paris to Marseille on Wednesday, blocking airport access routes in protest at plans to prise open the tightly regulated taxi business to competition.
Across the Paris region, more than 3,000 taxis went on strike, according to police figures, and hundreds converged around midday on Porte Maillot, near the La Defense business district on the capital's western rim.
Later in the day, a leader of a national taxi drivers' union declared the dispute over after meeting with an adviser to Prime Minister Francois Fillon.
"The conflict between the 55,000 taxis in France and the government is finished," said Alain Estival, adding that the government had agreed not to take up proposals opposed by drivers.
His comments followed a day of disruptions on French roads.
Striking taxis had blocked access to Charles de Gaulle and Orly international airports and paralysed traffic on three highways outside Paris.
A taxi driver was arrested in Paris after running over a police officer, slightly injuring him, in what police officials said was a deliberate act.
More than 1,000 drivers caused gridlock on access roads to the southern cities of Marseille and Nice, while hundreds more blocked routes into Lyon in the east and the wine capital Bordeaux on the western coast.
"Here lies my taxi -- thank you Sarkozy," read one taxi's protest banner in Marseille, a coffin fixed to the top of his car.
An economists' report on boosting growth presented to President Nicolas Sarkozy last month called for several regulated professions -- including the taxi business -- to be opened up to more competition.
It urges the government to issue tens of thousand of extra taxi licences, saying the number of Paris taxis, for example, should increase from 16,000 to around 50,000.
But taxi drivers warn the proposed changes would put many of them out of business -- and cause the resale value of their hard-earned licences to collapse -- without benefiting consumers.
"We want to hear that the plans will be buried, pure and simple," said Jean Gammiccia, head of the Marseille taxi federation, who was due to be received by Fillon.
Government spokesman Laurent Wauquiez said drivers were "legitimately worried" and that it was "out of the question to impose a reform" on the profession.
Elsewhere, some 300 drivers blocked traffic on the main highway linking France and Spain, just short of the border -- and started cooking up a barbecue while awaiting the outcome of talks at the ministry, police said.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »