TfL to force cab drivers to pass English test

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Transport for London has announced that all aspiring private-hire taxi drivers in the capital will have to pass a two-hour written English exam.

The test, which is compulsory for all drivers including those for whom English is their first language, has been brought in following a legal battle with Uber over its introduction.

Uber had successfully put a halt to TfL's original plan to exempt those from English-speaking countries from taking the test, saying that it was discriminatory. Its success was thanks in part to the fact it was backed by campaign groups representing migrant workers.

However, instead of ditching plans for a test entirely, TfL has instead announced that the exam will be compulsory for everyone either applying for a new licence or renewing an existing licence to drive a private-hire taxi.

The tests will need to be taken from 1 April 2017, a deadline that was extended from this month to allow would-be cab drivers more time to prepare.

Uber says that while it doesn't have an issue with drivers being asked to show they can speak English, it has criticised TfL's insistence on using written exams, which it says will put some drivers out of business.

The rules mean that someone who has spoken English their whole life could have to pay £200 to take the test, unless they can find an old GCSE certificate or similar proof.

Helen Chapman, TfL's general manager for taxi and private hire, said: "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."