Transport for London pushes back introduction of English written tests for private hire drivers pending Uber's appeal

Rebecca Smith
TfL plans to bring in the test from September
TfL plans to bring in the test from September (Source: Getty)

Transport for London (TfL) has announced it will push back the introduction of a written English language test for private hire drivers from September this year to April 2018, after Uber won its right to appeal the matter.

The case will be heard from 20 February next year.

The ride-hailing app lost a High Court challenge on the issue in March. However, it did win other elements of its case including that it won't need to provide a telephone call centre open 24 hours a day for passengers.

Read more: Uber loses High Court case against TfL on English tests for drivers

TfL wants all private hire drivers to prove their ability to communicate in English, and while Uber accepted some degree of reading and writing ability is needed, it argued the test proposed in its current form is excessive.

Lawyers for Uber said TfL's estimates indicated 33,000 drivers would either fail the test or be deterred from trying to renew their licence.

TfL has said the test is necessary to boost standards across the industry, and the transport body's commissioner Mike Brown has said the English language requirement had received "very strong support" in both consultations carried out on the matter.

Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber in London, said:

We’re pleased to have secured this appeal to defend tens of thousands of drivers who risk losing their livelihoods because they can’t pass an essay writing test.

While we’ve always supported spoken English skills, writing an essay has nothing to do with communicating with passengers or getting them safely from A to B.

We urge TfL and the mayor not to introduce these disproportionate and discriminatory rules before the appeal is heard.

A TfL spokesperson said:

As the English language requirement for private hire drivers is subject to legal proceedings, we propose to extend the deadline to meet the requirement to 9 April 2018.

We maintain that all licensed drivers must be able to communicate in English at an appropriate level. This is vital for passenger safety and was supported by the High Court. We will continue to robustly defend this position at the appeal.

TfL had said the test would be compulsory for anyone seeking to obtain or renew a licence to driver a private hire taxi from 1 April 2017, irrespective of nationality. It was then pushed back to September after the legal challenge from Uber.

‚ÄčRead more: Pretty soon you'll have to pay while your Uber driver waits for you

Related articles