Traffic chaos and violence as thousands of taxi drivers protest against Uber in Jakarta

Thousands of taxi drivers have caused traffic chaos in the Indonesian capital in a rowdy protest against competition from ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Grab.

TV footage on Tuesday showed long lines of taxis blocking a central expressway, men setting tires alight and jumping on vehicles that refused to join in the protest. An Associated Press reporter witnessed drivers surrounding one taxi, forcing its terrified female passenger out on to the road with her luggage.

It is the second major protest by taxi drivers in Jakarta this month. They say competition from ride-hailing apps, which don’t face the same costs and rules as regular taxis, has severely reduced their income. Many of the drivers come to Jakarta from other parts of Indonesia and support their families as taxi drivers.

— Archicco Guilianno (@Archicco)
March 22, 2016

motorbike taxi being beaten, i was there too

Driver Jeffrey Sumampouw said his earnings have slumped more than 60% since Uber and other apps starting getting popular in Jakarta about a year ago.

“The government must defend us from illegal drivers who have stolen our income,” he said. “We almost cry every day because it’s difficult to get passengers.”

Uber has been making a big push into Asia, intensifying competition in a region where there already was a slew of ride-hailing apps. Malaysia-based Grab operates in several Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia and Indonesian startup Go-Jek, which hails motorcycle taxis, has also exploded in popularity in the past year.

The protest elicited little if any sympathy from commuters in a city that already struggles daily with massive congestion.

“This protest is so terrible, they really are rude and overbearing. I was very hurt,” said Dewi Gayatri, who missed her flight for a business trip to Makassar in eastern Indonesia.

“I still like Uber, and hope the government protects Uber, because it’s so easy to order and cheaper,” she said.

A traditional bajaj taxi takes part in a protest rally for ban on online taxi apps in Jakarta. Photograph: Darren Whiteside/Reuters

Transportation minister Ignasius Jonan said companies like Uber were illegal unless they were registered as public transport providers and subject to the same rules as regular taxi operators.

“The point is, it has to be fair,” Jonan told reporters.

But the Communications Ministry, which oversees the app operators, has said the firms can go on operating.

Companies like Grab and Go-jek were running as usual on Tuesday despite the protests.

“We’ve advised our drivers and passengers to be careful in the areas where the demonstrations are happening,” said Ekhel Chandra Wijaya, of Grab Indonesia.

Meanwhile some countries have updated their travel advice in relation to Indonesia on the back of the protests.

— Bryce Green (@brycewg)
March 22, 2016

Australia has updated its travel advice for Indonesia in light of taxi protests in Jakarta.

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