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“Shocked but Unsurprised": London's taxi trade reacts to TfL's pause on minicab safety tests

In a move that has stirred the pot within London's taxi industry, Transport for London (TfL) decided to put a hold on enforcing key safety and language requirements for private hire drivers—a decision that has not gone unnoticed by the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA).

Steve McNamara, LTDA’s General Secretary, didn't mince words in his reaction, expressing a sentiment that many in the trade share - surprise at the announcement but not at the action itself.

McNamara's critique in TAXI Newspaper laid bare the irony and frustration felt across the taxi sector. While licensed taxi drivers face severe penalties for minor infractions—penalties that could go as far as licence suspension—the same stringent oversight doesn't seem to apply to minicab drivers. The SERU test and English language requirement, designed to ensure minicab drivers can effectively communicate and understand their responsibilities, have seen a temporary halt in enforcement. This leniency, McNamara argues, risks passenger safety and underscores a glaring discrepancy in TfL's treatment of the city’s two main driver groups.

Adding to the controversy is the Mayor of London's quick endorsement of the decision on social media. According to McNamara, the Mayor's applause for the pause contrasts sharply with the ongoing stress and challenges faced by taxi drivers under TfL's stringent policies. Despite repeated pleas and discussions pointing out the adverse effects of the "six points and you're out" policy, and the procedural hurdles in the appeals process, the concerns of taxi drivers have seemingly fallen on deaf ears.

As LTDA gears up for another round of talks with TfL’s senior policy staff, McNamara is prepared to highlight the stark differences in how taxi and minicab drivers are regulated and treated. The ongoing frustration isn't just about the rules but how they are applied inconsistently, impacting the livelihoods of taxi drivers while seemingly giving a free pass to others.

This "pause" in safety and language requirements for minicab drivers has once again lit a fire under the long-standing debate over fairness and safety in London's transport sector.

Steve McNamara, General Secretary of Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), said in TAXI Newspaper: “Like most of the trade, I was shocked, but also not surprised by the fanfare around the decision to “pause” enforcement for private hire drivers, who have failed to meet the deadline to pass the Safety, Equality and Regulatory Understanding (SERU) test and the English Language requirement.

“The irony of this situation is not lost on me or anyone else in trade. On the one hand, our members are being threatened with licence suspension or worse for minor offences, which have no bearing on their ability to drive a taxi and safely transport passengers from a to b. On the other hand, minicab drivers, who can’t pass a basic speaking test and/or a multiple-choice exam to demonstrate that they understand their responsibilities as licensees and their duty of care to passengers (without having their driver handbook open next to them), are allowed to continue working for the foreseeable future, putting passengers at risk.

“The Mayor was so eager to support the decision that he jumped straight on social media to praise it. His post on X made it clear he has been championing drivers concerns and raising the matter with TfL. We keep hearing about how worried drivers were and how they can now rest easy. In contrast, we’ve been telling TfL and City Hall for two years now, that our members are being put under enormous stress as a result of the six points (increasingly three points) and you’re out driver policy, as well as the changes to the TfL appeals process, which drivers and the LTDA on their behalf must go through to challenge poor decisions.

“Have they done anything to address our worries and concerns? Of course they haven’t. We are meeting senior policy staff at TfL, yet again in a few weeks to discuss our growing concerns about the driver policy. I will be pointing out the huge discrepancy in the way the two trades are handled.”


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