Uber wins right to challenge driver English tests
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Uber has won the right to take Transport for London (TfL) to court over new rules that would force its drivers to pass English tests.
TfL wanted all private-hire drivers who are not from English-speaking countries to be tested from 1 October.
Uber said it had successfully applied for judicial review of some regulations put forward in TfL’s licensing proposals for private-hire drivers.
A TfL spokesman said it was making the changes “to enhance public safety”.
The examination would test reading, writing and listening skills.
Uber will also challenge the requirement that all private-hire companies must have a customer call centre in London that passengers can ring during a ride and that TfL must be notified of any changes to its operating model.
Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber London, said: “We’re pleased that the judge has decided this case deserves a hearing.
“TfL’s plans threaten the livelihoods of thousands of drivers in London, while also stifling tech companies like Uber.”
Uber had initially supported the test, but now argues that the requirement that drivers provide a certificate showing they have an intermediate level of reading and writing is unnecessary and costly.
It has more than 30,000 drivers in London and estimates thousands would be affected by the change.
TfL said: “We note that the court has refused permission for judicial review of the principle and standard of English language test, the requirement for hire and reward insurance and the ability for customers to speak to someone by telephone.
“The changes to private-hire regulation were made to enhance public safety and we are determined to create a vibrant taxi and private hire market, with space for all providers to flourish.
“We look forward to the remaining issues being resolved in due course.”
Since the Conservative led coalition government took power in 2010, the UK taxi trade has suffered from a barrage of deregulation measures. Firstly through the Law Commission Review and then the Deregulation Bill. In London the Government’s agenda was aided by Tory Mayor Boris Johnson’s licencing of Uber in 2012.
Today we are seeing the result of these devastating manoeuvrings. London licensed private hire working across the country with what has become a cross border hiring nightmare and local authorities having little resources or powers to control the influx of new drivers and vehicles. This is leading them to look at softening their own local regulations in an effort to keep some sort of control.
Unite the union Cab Section has been at the forefront of the national fightback against the deregulation of the country’s taxi and private hire services and will continue to be so. Deregulation threatens not only passenger safety but also local established taxi and private hire services.
It is clear that London’s current soft touch to regulation is being used as a Trojan horse towards national private hire licensing, first mooted in the Law Commission’s 2011 review.
Sadiq Khan the new Labour Mayor of London must now stand firm and not allow this latest challenge to TfL by Uber to further destabilise the right of authorises up and down the country to regulate taxis and private hire services locally.
Peter J Rose. @peterjrose1