Transport for London has agreed to delay the introduction of written English Language tests for private hire drivers until September 2020, following pressure from the LPHCA, GMB Union and other trade bodies.

The move will allow a national standard for language testing to be established, along the lines of the recommendations of Professor Mohammed Abdel-Haq’s report, “Taxi & Private Hire Vehicle Licensing: Steps Towards A Safer & More Robust System”, the findings of which are being considered by the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

LPHCA chairman Steve Wright welcomed the move, saying: “We are extremely optimistic that we now have the opportunity to get the right level of English Language Requirements nationally.”

In his report, Professor Abdel-Haq stated: “Licensing authorities must require that all drivers are able to communicate in English orally and in writing to a standard that is required to fulfil their duties, including in emergency and other challenging situations.” This would deliver a different test to the much-criticised and onerous essay-based written test that TfL was implementing.

In its draft guidance for consultation including, the Government said Licencing Authorities should have the freedom to specify the level of English language proficiency, but this should be based around a realistic level required to be a PHV driver, taxi driver, or chauffeur These are defined as:

  • Conversing with passengers to demonstrate an understanding of the desired destination, an estimation of the time taken to get there and other common passenger requests
  • Providing a customer with correct change from a note or notes of higher value than the given fare, and doing so with relative simplicity
  • Providing a legibly written receipt upon request.

Wright hailed the TfL relay as a major success, following more than two years of campaigning. He said: “The LPHCA is delighted that Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, alongside TfL Taxi & Private Hire, has listened to the advice that the LPHCA and other trade organisations sent to the Mayor in a letter sent by the LPHCA in January 2019, and has suspended the current English Language Test requirements until September 2020.”

The tests – which would have cost an estimated 20,000 drivers their jobs – were due to have been introduced on April 30, 2019. Wright added: “The 18-month extension will give government, the industry, regulators and other stakeholders, the opportunity to set out and agree realistic English Language requirements for PHV and taxi drivers nationally going forward.”

He continued: “We are grateful that Mayor Khan and TfL TPH have listened and we are extremely appreciative of the cross-party political support we have received from London Assembly Members, in particular Conservative Assembly Member Gareth Bacon, who brokered ‘politically neutral’ talks between the Mayor and trade representatives.”

Steve Garelick, GMB Regional Officer also welcomed the move, saying: “This is a victory for common sense and I hope that an appropriate test that can ensure public safety and a good service will come as a result of the consultation. GMB supports thorough testing to make sure that private hire in London is pre-eminent worldwide.”