Future of Work

Taxi-hailing app Uber has launched a legal bid to stop Transport for London forcing its drivers to take a written English test.

From 1 October, anyone from a non-English-speaking country who applies for a private hire driver licence or to renew an existing licence in London will have to prove that they have passed an exam in English.

Uber has submitted an application for a judicial review in the high court in London to block TfL’s plans, but the transport authority said it would defend its proposals in court.

The San Francisco-based firm has railed against the requirement, saying that although drivers should be able to speak English, requiring them to pass a written exam would put many out of business. Uber also objects to plans to force taxi firms to operate a London call centre and requiring drivers to have commercial insurance for vehicles even when they are not being used as private hire cars.

“This legal action is very much a last resort,” said Tom Elvidge, Uber’s general manager for London. “We’re particularly disappointed that, after a lengthy consultation process with Transport for London, the goalposts have moved at the last minute and new rules are now being introduced that will be bad for both drivers and tech companies like Uber.”

Initial proposals from TfL called for proficiency only in spoken English, butupdated plans include a requirement to pass a two-hour written exam as well, which will cost £200 to sit. Drivers from a range of English-speaking countries such as New Zealand and Jamaica are not required to take the test, a discrepancy Uber is expected to challenge in court under the Equality Act.

A TfL spokesman said: “These [measures] have been introduced to enhance public safety when using private hire services and we are determined to create a vibrant taxi and private hire market with space for all providers to flourish.”

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