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Uber given permission to challenge Transport for London over language rule

Published 02/09/2016

Uber has made inroads into the market
Uber has made inroads into the market

Uber has been given the green light for a High Court challenge against Transport for London (TfL) over a new rule requiring drivers to pass an English test.

TfL wants all private-hire drivers to undergo reading, writing and listening tests from October 1.

A judge in London has refused Uber permission to argue at a future hearing that an English language requirement for drivers should not include reading and writing skills.

But Mr Justice Holgate gave the company the go-ahead to mount a challenge as there are currently no exemptions in place for some drivers in relation to the language test.

The judge said there was "no objection as such to some requirement being imposed with regard to efficiency in English".

He added that the "thrust of the objection is to the writing and reading aspect of the test" proposed by TfL. Tests relating to listening and oral efficiency did not "give rise to complaint".

The judge ruled that Uber did not have an "arguable case" to challenge the writing and reading elements of the test, saying that a "strong case" had been put forward on behalf of TfL "as to why these are justified".

TfL's new rules would require private hire drivers from non-English speaking countries to meet a B1 level of English in speaking, listening, reading and writing under Common European Framework standards.

Uber said it supports spoken English skills, but claims the exam goes beyond requirements for British citizenship as well as rules governing public sector workers.

Tom Elvidge, the general manager at 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."

Mr Justice Holgate also gave Uber permission to challenge other regulations TfL wants to implement, including a requirement that the Ireland-based transport company opens a 24-hour call centre in London.

A Transport for London spokesman 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."

A hearing is expected in December.

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