Bradford taxi drivers are now facing an L-test - that’s a language test - to ensure their English is up to scratch after customers complained they could not talk to them.
According to the Daily Express, Bradford council bosses have found that many of the city’s foreign drivers do not speak adequate English, much to the consternation of customers.
Taxi and PHV operators admit it has now become standard for people to ask for “English speaking” drivers.
Until recently licensing rules specified that drivers had to show “a basic understanding of written and spoken English”. Reading a paragraph out of a paperback book and filling in a receipt was enough to get a licence.
But now councillors have approved plans whereby cabbies will sit a “conversation test” demanding far greater language skills. They will have to understand a series of questions fired at them by a council worker.
Licensing manager Carol Stos said: “The new procedure will require an applicant to answer normal conversational questions. They can include things such as, ‘What do you think of the weather recently?’, ‘Where did you take your last customer?’ and ‘How do you get from A to B?’”
Ukip leader Nigel Farage said he hoped Bradford’s lead would be followed by other towns and cities, including London.
He said: “Travelling by taxi is expensive and one of the compensations is a good chat and a good laugh. I have travelled in many cabs in London, with reputable companies employing Romanian drivers who use sat-nav and are barely able to converse a word with me.
“Speaking the language is a high requirement for an integrated society.”
Senior figures within the taxi trade agreed with Mr Farage.
Wayne Casey, admin officer for the National Taxi Association insisted: “Being able to communicate with a passenger is important. It is common sense.”
And Khurram Shehzad, chairman of the Bradford Private Hire Liaison Service, added: “It is in the interests of the public. Some drivers may know how to drive – but when they have a customer in the car with them, they can’t have a conversation.”
Mmmm... The timing of Bradford Council’s decision on this issue is interesting, considering that as far back as 1999, over 89 per cent of the trade in Bradford had English as their second language. This speaking of English thing is not just about making pleasant conversation with the driver; surely it is also about keeping lines of communication open in case the passenger wishes to go a different route, or there is a medical emergency and the driver has to understand what is happening and convey the situation to the emergency services, or any other contingency. See also this month’s Round the Councils about Bradford, where the whole safety issue is being tightened up. Only one question: what is a new applicant supposed to answer when the council asks them, “Where did you take your last passenger?” Just wondering... - Ed.