English Language Requirement for PHV Drivers (5)

MQT on 2017-01-18
Session date: 
January 18, 2017
Question By: 
Florence Eshalomi
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


TfL's March 2016 Board Papers say, "It has always been a requirement for private hire driver applicants to undertake a topographical assessment in English. Throughout summer 2015 we conducted a mystery shopping exercise at all accredited topographical assessment centres. Through this exercise we identified serious issues with the way a test was being conducted at a number of centres, including applicants being given answers and being allowed to take the test in their native language. As a result, to date 15 centres had their accreditation suspended and candidates that had recently passed the assessment at one of those centres had to re-sit the test with TfL invigilating. Of the circa 200 applicants that have now re-taken the test, just 36 per cent passed and a significant number of the applicants that failed was due to their inability to understand the simple questions written in English. It has been observed that many of these candidates were also unable to communicate with TfL in English. TfL outsource vehicle licensing inspections to an external service provider, NSL, and it has been observed that on occasion, licensed drivers bring a translator to the inspection centre". What was the "significant number" of applicants who did not understand English?


Answer for English Language Requirement for PHV Drivers (5)

Answer for English Language Requirement for PHV Drivers (5)

Answered By: 
The Mayor

The reason why an applicant has failed the topographical skills test is not recorded, so the precise number is not known. The statement referred to in the TfL Board paper of 17 March is based on the observations of TfL test invigilators about the difficulty in communicating simple instructions to applicants and their inability to answer questions in basic English. 

However, this was not the only reason for the introduction of the English language requirement, which was consulted upon extensively by TfL before it was introduced.

For example, there was very strong support for the proposal in the first consultation (in March 2015) with 95% of private hire operators, 88% of drivers and 99% of respondents in favour.

Furthermore, TfL's second consultation, in September 2015, asked participants whether they supported that drivers should be "able to demonstrate they have sufficient knowledge of English language at an intermediate level". Again, this received strong support with 80% of respondents in favour.

TfL also commissioned an Integrated Impact Assessment, carried out by Mott MacDonald, which identified that this measure would have some beneficial health and equality consequences for passengers. The assessment also notes that the measure would ease uncertainty, misunderstandings and passenger anxieties.

Please also see my response to MQ 2017/267.