Spanish taxi drivers demand British-style cabs after attack

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The Independent Online

Spanish taxi drivers want to adopt a version of the British black cab after a driver was stabbed, saying it offers better security for the driver and more room for customers.

Manuel Garcia Vico, chairman of the taxi drivers' association of Jaen, in Andalusia, said he was negotiating with the car factory Santana Motor, in nearby Linares, to produce a custom-made vehicle modelled on the black cab.

Mr Garcia Vico's initiative was prompted by the murder on Monday of a Bilbao taxi driver, Eduardo Robredo, who was slashed in the throat in the early hours by a passenger wielding a 15cm kitchen knife. The killing shocked the nation and prompted a one-hour cab drivers' strike at midday on Tuesday that was supported nationwide.

This is not the first time the black cab has attracted the admiration of Spanish taxi drivers. Mr Garcia Vico said his first idea was to get the Santana works ­ which, in association with Suzuki, has a thriving business producing 4x4s and small trucks ­ to produce the traditional black cab under licence. But, he said, the British manufacturers declined to cede the licence to Spanish producers.

"That was a disappointment, but we will try anything to get better taxis, even though setting up a new project like this is very costly," Mr Garcia Vico said.

His plan is to get Santana to produce a taxi with the black cab's distinctive characteristics of a separate secure section for the driver, with four or five passenger seats in the back.

Most of Spain's cabs are normal vehicles modified only with a meter, a roof sign and a green light. Instantly recognisable in white striped with red (traditional black and turquoise remains in Barcelona), they mostly offer no protection for the driver.

Some have a crude plastic screen clamped across the front seatbacks, with a little hatchway through which you bellow your destination and poke your fare, but these are rare. Cab drivers complain such screens are expensive and hinder the effectiveness of safety belts, airbags and seat mobility.

Drivers are increasingly mounting GPS satellite-phones on their dashboard, permanently connected to emergency services, and steer clear of dangerous spots. But they complain that such precautions offer no protection against a violent assailant.