MADRID (Reuters) - Spain on Friday gave drivers of Uber and Cabify four years to comply with new licensing regulations issued by its autonomous regions and cities, defying protests by drivers for the ride-hailing services.
There are almost 11,000 vehicles with ride-sharing licences and more than 65,000 with taxi licences, Public Works Ministry data shows, with more than 150,000 taxi drivers and 15,000 Uber and Cabify drivers in operation.
On Thursday, drivers of Uber and Cabify took to the streets to protest against the proposed transfer of licensing powers to Spanish regions. Drivers fear it aims to reduce licence numbers.
"If they want to continue working in cities they will have to apply for appropriate licenses," Public Works Minister José Luis Abalos told a news conference after a cabinet meeting.
The government agreed in 2017 on new regulations in an attempt to guarantee a cap on licences for Uber and similar services at a ratio of just one permit for every 30 taxi permits.
But taxi drivers took to the streets this summer saying this ratio was not being respected and demanded an end to the practise of transferring ride-hailing permits between drivers.
The government then decided to transfer licensing regulations to the regions.
"Some will see 4 years as too long and others will see it as too short," said Abalos on Friday. "We are trying to create a space that allows for both sectors to coexist under the same legislation."
(Reporting by Robert Hetz; Written by Isabel Woodford; Editing by Jesús Aguado and Matthew Mpoke Bigg)