Uber drops appeal over English language tests for London drivers

The ride-hailing app went to court after Transport for London (TfL) said all applicants for a private hire driver’s licence in the capital from October 2016 should have to prove their ability to communicate in English and take tests in basic writing and reading.

Officials argued the changes would ensure passenger safety, but Uber claimed the standard required was too high and would lead to “indirect racial discrimination” that could threaten the livelihoods of 30,000 drivers.

The company lost the first round of its legal case last year and then, in September, TfL refused Uber’s bid to renew its operating licence on the grounds it was not a “fit and proper” operator.

Uber has since been working to bolster its standards – announcing last week that it was to introduce new safety measures nationwide.

It said on Monday that its decision to drop an appeal against the language tests – due to be heard on Tuesday – was a response to a change in TfL’s plans for the tests.

TfL said last week: “Since 14 October 2016, all applicants for a private hire driver’s licence have been required to be able to communicate in English to a B1 standard.

“We are now looking at introducing an English language test which is more relevant to the role of a private hire driver but remains at B1 standard.

“For example, including bespoke material with language and vocabulary that directly relates to the role and responsibilities of a private hire driver.”

Commenting on the decision, an Uber spokesperson responded: “This is a welcome announcement from Transport for London.

“We support raising standards and believe that a new test focused on situations drivers may encounter makes a lot more sense. This means we will no longer pursue our legal appeal.”

TfL said: “We believe that the ability to communicate in English at an appropriate level is a crucial element of the high standards of passenger safety and service Londoners and visitors to the city deserve.

“We are pleased that the appeal has been withdrawn and will work to introduce a new test that is more relevant to the role of a private hire driver.

“It would require applicants to demonstrate the appropriate level of English at the same level as the existing test but would include language and vocabulary that directly relates to a private hire driver’s role and responsibilities.”

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I welcome the decision by Uber to withdraw their appeal against the English language tests.

“I want the highest standards of passenger safety and service in London from private hire drivers and that’s why I’ve always said that if you want to drive passengers in London you should be able to communicate in English at an appropriate level.”

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