Boris Johnson calls for mini-Knowledge for Uber drivers

Boris Johnson underground

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, has suggested that Uber drivers should have to pass language and geography tests before being allowed to operate in the city.

Speaking at his last ever State of London debate, Johnson came to the defence of black-cab drivers, who have been locked in a rivalry with cab app Uber since the firm came to the UK.

Johnson said: “It is not fair that a black-taxi driver has to spend four years getting the Knowledge and somebody else can just cruise in and take up the trade without really knowing how London works and how it all fits together.

“TfL (Transport for London) are currently consulting on a proper geographical test so you can’t drive a minicab in London unless you know one end of the city from the other.

“We will do it in the same way we do for black cabs. It won’t be like the Knowledge because I think it is important that the black cabs retain their distinctiveness.”

Uber, the San Francisco based minicab firm part owned by Google, came to the United Kingdom in June 2012.

Criticisms have been aimed at the firm over some drivers’ apparent limited knowledge of London streets, although Uber has a test its drivers are required to sit before joining the firm.

Black-cab drivers’ protests have also focused on Uber’s low pricing model. The latest protest against the firm, organised by United Cabbies Firm, took place in May.

Johnson said Transport for London was not in a position to ban Uber, but said he disliked the “attitude” of “gigantic American internet companies”.

He told the audience at Indigo Hall: “I might not like some of the brash attitudes of these gigantic American internet companies and the way they think they can come over and disrupt the market in this country.

“I disapprove of it, I think they are setting out to do serious economic damage to the black-taxi trade but it is not possible for me simply to ban something and to expect that ban to work.”

How we tested Uber’s system of checking cab drivers

An Uber spokesman said: “Uber agrees with Boris. We already interview our drivers face to face to ensure they have the necessary language skills but we would support a more stringent English language requirement for private hire drivers.

“A topographical test is currently undertaken by all PHV (private hire vehicle) drivers, but we also agree it should also be reformed.

“We would welcome a revision of the test to make it more stringent and to update content to reflect the needs of drivers and their ability supplement their own knowledge of the city with satellite navigation.”

Though Johnson was in full voice in his support for cabbies at Indigo Hall, the mayor did also hit the headlines last week for telling a black-cab driver who shouted abuse at him to “fuck off and die”.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Hannah Jane Parkinson, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 24th June 2015 10.43 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

 

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