French Connection: Willy Fischer talks taxis

TaxiPoint talks to Parisian taxi driver, Willy Fischer, to hear his views and opinions on the trade. Learn more about the French system and how cabbies in the UK are perceived from across the water. Tell us about yourself... I am a Paris Taxi driver/owner since 2003. Before that I worked in Hotels business, including 2 years in London in 1989 – 1990 (near Olympia and then near Edgware Road). How do you obtain a Parisian taxi license? Over here in Paris we purchase our taxi license. The procedure is fast (about 3 months) as long as your funding is ready. At the moment the value of the license is 145.000 euros. So in other words, we don’t have several difficult years to master the Knowledge, (the Parisian Knowledge takes about 6 months) but we do have several difficult years to repay the credit for the license (usually in 7 years). You may also wait to receive a free license from the government, but this takes about 15 years, and that free license can not be resold latter on (when you retire). How would the Parisian general public describe the French taxi service? The Parisian general public used to describe their taxi service as, I would say, “average” – but we’ve much improved over the last few years: mandatory CC, flat rate to both airports, mandatory English language basic knowledge, taxi apps etc. All this is quite appreciated by the general public, and I guess they would describe us now as “convenient, pleasant”. How do French drivers regard UK taxi drivers? UK drivers and London Cabbies are voted best in the world year after year by the general public, and, as our greatest author, Molière, said “the general public is always right in the end”. Not only the London Cabbies train for years to learn the Knowledge, master their craft and drive you quickly and efficiently through the very complex maze of London’s streets, but they also take part in many wonderful charities and events : Taxi Charity, #BackTotheBeaches, Magical Taxi Tour, etc… Knowing all this, plus the fact that the traditional London Hackney taxi is 100% made in Britain, we over here in France are shocked and really stunned that your regulator or government neither helps nor supports the taxi trade in Britain. London’s Bank Junction access banned to taxis, number of PHVs / Uber not capped in London, revocation of the License of a London taxi Driver for a mere video posted on Twitter (simply expressing his opinion) – these are things (just to name a few) which in France would be incomprehensible and unacceptable by the general public. What is the relationship like with the Parisian taxi service and the regulators/government? The Parisian taxi service and the regulator/government traditionally have a relationship of good cooperation. Many Police Officers become taxi Drivers when they retire from Police service. The 60.000 taxis of France also pay annually more than 500 million euros in various taxes to the government – and this is of course something the government wants to keep and protect. Money is also probably the main reason why the government has set up and launched its own taxi App (@odtaxi). However, the taxis will never hesitate to demo against the government / regulator. The relation is good as long as the government / regulator is fair. French taxi drivers come across as a very militant group, but also very good at getting the people to listen. Would you say that’s a fair observation? Yes that’s a fair observation, but that’s not limited to the taxi drivers. Most professional Unions in France are able to get the government or their regulator to listen. The reason to my opinion is deeply rooted in French history and in today’s French society : democracy started with the Revolution in 1789, and most people in France are proud of the Revolution. Nowadays demos, are simply the modern expression of this Revolution. This is not a cliché, and the general public, in the end, is always on the side of the Demos. A government refusing to sit down, listen and act, would soon be cornered and highly unpopular. How has Uber affected the taxi service in Paris and France? I’ll be precise, Uber and similar PHVs services have taken about 30% of my gross daily income. The value of the taxi license has dropped as well, from 235.000 euros in 2012 to 115.000 euros in 2015. However, things are now improving for us taxis, slowly but steadily : the value of the license (a fine barometer of our activity) is 145.000 this May 2017, and the daily gross income is following the same upward trend. What would you say is the biggest threat facing the Parisian taxi service? Without hesitation, I would say that losing the clientele of tourists is the biggest threat to the Parisian taxi service. Tourists represent about 35% of my daily gross income, and my business as it is now would not survive without them. So far, most hotels book taxis (and not Uber) and the majority of the tourists, I think, take taxis (and not Uber). We try to do everything possible to please and satisfy the tourists : mandatory English language basic skill, mandatory CC, flat rates to airports, taxi apps etc… We try to improve ourselves every day and keep confidence in the future! We'd like to thank Willy for his contribution and please do leave any feedback below. You can also find Willy on Twitter by following @frenchtaxi

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