Uber adds Brussels taxis to app after years of rivalry

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Brussels residents or visitors will soon be able to order a regular taxi through the Uber app.

The ride-hailing company told POLITICO that it’s working to integrate regular Brussels taxis into its platform to comply with new local regulations after Uber drivers were briefly banned from the Brussels streets late last year. Uber and the Brussels taxi industry have had a long-running feud since the app opened for business in the Belgian capital in 2014.

In June, the Brussels regional parliament approved plans for a unified statute for both taxi drivers and for-hire drivers, which covers Uber’s service.

“This means that traditional taxis can start to drive with apps like Uber,” Laurent Slits, Uber’s head of Belgian activities said in a statement shared with POLITICO last Thursday. “To prepare for this change, starting today these [taxi] drivers can subscribe to a waiting list to start using the Uber app.”

Over the last few years, Uber has struck a series of deals with taxi companies around the world to give their drivers access to the platform. The company considers it a win-win: allowing taxi drivers onto the platforms reduces waiting times for passengers, while taxi drivers have more earning opportunities.

In Europe, deals are in place in cities in Spain, Austria, Germany and Greece. In May, Uber signed one of its biggest taxi deals up to date with Italian taxi dispatcher IT Taxi, allowing 12,000 drivers in 90 Italian cities access to the platform. Outside of Europe, a deal in New York managed to enlist the famous yellow cabs.

It isn’t clear how keen Brussels taxi drivers are to join the platform. “To be honest, cooperating with a platform which is constantly violating the rules and totally out of control, for us, it’s problematic,” said Abdessamad Sabbani, president of the Brussels Taxi Federation. Some of the city’s taxi drivers are unhappy that drivers with a Flemish permit were caught picking up rides in the city.

Uber couldn’t specify when the feature will be available in the app. It’s also unclear whether it will be part of the current Brussels UberX-model, or whether there will be a separate Uber Taxi-tab. Uber operates both models, depending on local regulation. More details are expected in early September.