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Uber sues London transport agency over new written English test for drivers

uk uber loses driver case
Kampee Patisena/123RF
Under new rules, London Uber drivers must pass a two-hour, written English test, a more rigorous standard than what’s required for British citizenship. As a result, Uber has sued Transport for London, the government agency responsible for city public transportation, according to CNN Money.

Uber says its U.K. drivers are already screened thoroughly and sufficiently. Each driver must have had an unrestricted license for three years. Drivers must carry hire and reward insurance — a policy that allows you to carry other people’s goods in exchange for pay. They must have medical exams and pass background checks. In addition, all Uber drivers have to pass a topographical skills test that measures language comprehension and map reading skills. Uber believes that level of screening and testing is enough.

The test Transport for London now requires is called the “B1 exam.” The B1 is described as “the ability to express oneself in a limited way in familiar situations and to deal in a general way with nonroutine information.” The exam consists of a two-hour reading and writing test, as well as speaking and listening tests. British citizenship tests only speaking and listening, according to CNN Money. Passing the B1 exam would require language skills equal or better than 9- to 11-year-old native speakers.

Transport for London said official Black Cab drivers have to meet even higher levels of language knowledge. Tesla has claimed that under the previous rules, only 0.5 percent of all London feedback mentioned poor English skills.

With thousands of drivers renewing or applying for new licenses, Uber said the new rules will hurt drivers.  “If they do not pay for and pass a B1 written English exam, then they will lose their license and thus their livelihood,” The company said in a statement.

Tom Elvidge, Uber’s London general manager said: “This legal action is very much a last resort. New rules are now being introduced that will be bad for both drivers and tech companies like Uber.”

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