Transport for London (TfL) have extended the English Language Requirement deadline to September 2021 for all private hire drivers licensed in the capital.
In a ‘Notice’ today announcing the decision to the industry, the capital’s transport regulator cites the ‘significant’ impact caused by COVID-19, as the overriding reason to push back the licensing requirement by a further 12 months.
According to Graham Robinson, TfL’s General Manager Taxi and Private Hire, the pandemic has made complying with the English Language Requirement (ELR) more difficult. Drivers have been unable to take a Secure English Language Test (SELT) during recent months owing to the temporary closure of the testing centres.
Robinson also recognised that recovering evidence of qualifications has been difficult because many academic institutions have also temporarily closed during the period.
Those SELT centres that have recently reopened have also been found to be unable to offer the same number of tests as they were prior to lockdown, owing to the need for social distancing.
The pandemic has also had an impact on TfL’s resources. Prior to the pandemic, TfL were exploring alternative ways drivers could demonstrate their English language skills. These plans were put on hold to focus resources on critical licensing activities and supporting the industry throughout the pandemic.
In July, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced new statutory standards for taxi and private hire drivers. This includes a requirement for licensing authorities to test English language proficiency for taxi and private hire drivers.
Robinson continued: “In light of these factors, we have decided to extend the deadline for compliance with the ELR to 30 September 2021, giving drivers a further twelve months to comply.
“Therefore, anyone whose application for a London PHV driver’s licence (including a renewal) that was received by TfL on or after 14 October 2016 has until 30 September 2021 to provide evidence that they comply with the ELR, either by submitting documentary evidence of a qualification or passing a SELT with one of TfL’s appointed providers.
“No further action is needed by any licensee or applicant that has submitted satisfactory evidence that they comply with the ELR, whether this takes the form of documentary evidence of a qualification or a certificate from one of TfL’s appointed SELT providers. TfL will contact these licensees or applicants should we need anything further from them.
“If a licensee or applicant has not yet provided evidence, they now have until 30 September 2021 to do so. Anyone applying for a new licence, or seeking to renew their licence, on or after 1 October 2021 will need to satisfy the ELR before a licence is granted.
“We are currently considering all of the new Statutory Standards announced by the DfT and will make further announcements about how TfL, as the licensing authority, will comply with the new standards.”