TfL Makes English Test Compulsory for London Private Cab Drivers

Oct 18, 2016
Transport for London (TfL) has announced that all taxi drivers in London will be required to demonstrate written and spoken English skills to obtain a licence, despite the objections of Uber, the taxi-hailing app, which questioned the need for drivers to 'possess essay-writing skills'.

Uber had previously succeeded in blocking TfL’s attempts to offer an exemption for drivers from English-speaking countries on the grounds that it would be discriminatory. However TfL has responded by broadening the rule so that the exam will become compulsory for anyone seeking to obtain or renew a licence to drive a private-hire taxi after 1 April 2017, regardless of their nationality.

The requirement will mean applicants that have spoken English all of their life will be required to pay £200 to take an exam unless they are able to provide ‘satisfactory documentary evidence’ that they already possess an English qualification such as a GCSE or equivalent. 

Critics have questioned the decision and suggested many thousands of existing drivers will now be penalised £200 and forced to pass a written exam or find an old GCSE certificate. Those that are unable to either risk the loss of their licences and the loss of their livelihood. 

Helen Chapman, TfL’s general manager for taxi and private hire, is quoted in The Guardian as stating: 'It is essential for public safety that all licensed drivers can communicate in English at an appropriate level. Drivers must be able to communicate with passengers to discuss a route, or fare, as well as reading and understanding important regulatory, safety and travel information… We are clear that this is crucial to a driver’s role in transporting the public.'

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