It was with great pride that Amsterdam yesterday announced the launch of its new Amsterdamtaxi scheme – a strangely-named quality label for the city’s taxis.
Amsterdam has been forced to take this step after the insane decision a few years ago to open the city’s taxi sector to the joys of the market. Until then, if you wanted to drive a taxi, you had to pay a hefty amount – up to €100,000 – to take over a licence.
The powers that be decided this was uncompetitive. Anyone could become a taxi driver – as long as they had a car. Prices would fall, passengers would be free to choose whatever taxi they liked and quality would improve.
What happened? Prices went up, quality fell and tourists found themselves taken on long routes by drivers who didn’t have a clue where they were going.
Hence the introduction of this shiny new standard. People who opt for one of these new Amsterdamtaxis – and they will have exclusive access to Central Station for example – have the guarantee that the driver knows the city, is polite and neatly dressed, and that his car is safe.
But because it will be expensive to meet the new standards, the council has decided to subsidise the first 300 with taxpayers’ money. So much for the market! And as for the rest? They can carry on taking everyone for a ride as before.