London firms back Transport for London's English tests for private hire drivers

Rebecca Smith
TfL's plans have faced resistance from Uber
TfL's plans have faced resistance from Uber (Source: Getty)

London businesses are in favour of a controversial planned English test that private hire drivers face, according to a new poll from the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Transport for London plans to bring in a English language test for private hire drivers, and wants all drivers to be able to prove their ability to communicate in English "at the appropriate level for speaking, listening, reading and writing", in order to boost standards across the industry.

The LCCI found that 83 per cent of over 500 firms backed the policy.

Read more: Transport for London blames Brexit for surprise fall in passenger numbers

The number of private hire vehicles on the capital's roads has risen by over 75 per cent over the past five years, which has led to concerns over the regulation of the industry and raised questions over how best to ensure a consistent level of service, as well as fair competition.

LCCI's chief executive Colin Stanbridge said: "Over the years, there have been fundamental changes in the way Londoners use the transport network. Nowhere is such a shift more evident than the taxi and private hire industry which has changed considerably since technology impacted the way services can be bought and supplied."

He added:

The general expectation for London business people using a private hire vehicle is to get from A to B in a safe and timely manner at a reasonable cost.

A fundamental part of this that is overwhelmingly backed by businesses is the view that private hire drivers should be able to speak a reasonable amount of English.

The test though, is facing resistance from Uber, which has launched a legal challenge over the matter, saying that it felt the test 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. It is appealing a High Court decision earlier this year which ruled in TfL's favour, with the appeal due to be heard next February.

Previously, TfL had said that anyone whose application for a new or renewal private hire driver's licence was received on or after 14 October last year had until the end of this September to provide evidence of their ability to comply with the new requirement.

That was pushed back until April next year, before the deadline was extended further still to July 2018, with TfL saying the extension will give drivers more time to comply.

Read more: TfL delays English written tests for private hire drivers amid Uber appeal

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