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London transport authority defends English language test for Uber drivers

Uber says the level of English required to be a private hire driver in London will put "thousands" out of work.


Uber and the established taxi industry in London have clashed multiple times since the company first launched in the city.

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London's transport authority on Thursday defended its decision to force all private hire drivers to sit an English language test, following criticism from ride-sharing service Uber.

From the start of October, all drivers applying for or renewing private hire licenses will need to take the test, which involves writing, reading, speaking and listening components. The decision to ensure drivers are proficient in English is part of a plan to modernize private hire in the city, following a review of the industry by Transport for London (TfL), which is responsible for running and regulating travel in the capital.

"We think that it's appropriate for this requirement to apply to private hire drivers, who will often be responsible for transporting vulnerable passengers," said Helen Chapman, TfL's general manager of taxi and private hire, in a statement. When the proposal for an English language requirement was put to the public as part of the review, 80 percent of the 20,000 respondents were in support, she added.

Uber says that forcing drivers to sit the £200 exam will force thousands of drivers across Britain's capital out of work. The San Francisco-based company's general manager for London Tom Elvidge pointed out in an email to customers that the level of English required for a license was higher than that required to apply for British citizenship.

"Fewer drivers will mean longer waiting times or no cars when you need them most," said Elvidge, urging Londoners to appeal to the city's Mayor Sadiq Khan.