Taxis jam Brussels in protest against Uber

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Hundreds of taxis from across Europe jammed central Brussels on Wednesday in protest against the driver-hailing app Uber, closing tunnels and disrupting commuters’ journeys.

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Taxis drove slowly through the Belgian capital towards Schuman roundabout, which houses the European Union institutions, stopping at major intersections on the way and blocking two main routes.

Transport union FGTB-UBT said about 1,200 taxis, hailing from France, Britain, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal, took part in the protest. Police said there were around 400.

Since its launch in Europe four years ago, the U.S. start-up Uber has drawn the ire of traditional taxi drivers and faced court injunctions in several countries, including Spain, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Taxi drivers say Uber circumvents local regulations on safety, tax and licensing.

“They (Uber) pay no charges, they have no social security, they are not even insured for transporting people,” said Paris taxi driver Ben Deniro.

Cabbies drove with banners saying “This is not an illegal taxi” and “No to the ‘uberisation’ of our profession” on their vehicles.

Two weeks ago Uber launched its licensed service UberX in Brussels, although it said it did not plan on suspending its unlicensed service UberPOP as it has done in Paris.

“Uber is about keeping cities moving - connecting people to safe, reliable and affordable transport at the tap of a button. These threats, by a small number of taxi drivers, only underline why people are increasingly choosing alternatives like Uber,” said a spokesman for the company.

A survey published on Tuesday, conducted by Belgian newspaper La Libre, pollster Dedicated and public broadcaster RTBF, showed that only 7 percent of Belgians were in favor of banning Uber.

Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Alison Williams