Uber loses court battle over language rules for drivers in London

Drivers applying for a minicab licence in London would need to pass a written English exam, which included a 120-word essay, after Uber lost a high court battle with the capital's transport authority.

Justice John Mitting, who presided over the case, admitted that the requirement could see 40,000 drivers over three years either fail the test or be deterred from applying for a private hire vehicle licence.

However, he said Transport for London had no reasonable alternative to the exam, which lasted two hours, cost would-be drivers £200. The exam did not apply to London's black cabs.

Uber said it would appeal against the verdict that according to the company's London head, Tom Elvidge, was a ''deeply disappointing outcome for tens of thousands of drivers who will lose their livelihoods because they cannot pass an essay writing test''.

''We've always supported spoken English skills, but writing an essay has nothing to do with communicating with passengers or getting them safely from A to B,'' Elvidge added.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, ''I'm delighted that the courts have today backed my plans to drive up standards and improve passenger safety in London.

''Drivers being able to speak English and understand information from passengers and licensing requirements is a vital part of ensuring passengers get the high standard of service they need and deserve.''

In August public body Transport for London (TfL) said that drivers should have to prove a certain proficiency in English, including reading and writing. Uber said the required level was too high.

Rejecting Uber's claim judge Mitting said: "TfL are entitled to require private hire drivers to demonstrate English language compliance," judge Mitting said.

Uber had cited Tfl data in court, that suggested the new language rules could mean about 33,000 private hire drivers out of a total of 110,000 operating in London would fail to renew their licences over the next few years.