It comes as no surprise after the recent scandal, of thousands of minicab drivers being licensed using fake criminal record checks and fake medicals. After being exposed was then sweater under TfL’s carpet ...now a BBC investigation finds that thousands of London minicab drivers may be working fraudulently after buying qualifications, the BBC has found.
Legally, prospective drivers must sit mandatory exams to get a licence. But a BBC undercover investigation has exposed colleges cheating the required tests.
Transport for London (TfL) said it would immediately investigate at least 1,667 applications in light of the evidence. But they said they would investigate the 13,000 drivers implicated before but only wrote to 2,460 then scrapped their investigation.
TfL, who were found to be ‘Totally Inadequate’ as a licensing authority by a GLA transport investigation in the past said it was "deeply concerned" by the findings.
The growth in minicab booking firms such as Uber have seen the number of private hire vehicle licences in use that were issued in the capital surge by 86% between 2011 and 2018, from 61,200 to 113,645.
Under the minicab application process, along with a criminal record check and medical test, (which we’ve seen drivers fake) drivers must sit a topographical exam and an English test at one of eight official TfL testing centres.
Evidence of these exams can also be accepted via other qualifications including BTecs, which are usually taken at private colleges and centres.
This is where the trouble has been brewing!
It’s not just in London though, the qualification can be used to gain a minicab licence from many councils across the UK.
One of these colleges, Vista Training Solutions in Newham, east London, offered to take the tests for several BBC researchers for £500 per BTec.
At a mandatory English and maths assessment answers were read out to eight candidates taking the BTec fraudulently.
Registers were falsified before the online BTec exam was taken by the managers on the candidates' behalf.
The researcher, who had neither attended any classes nor completed an exam, received a BTec level two certificate in Introduction to the Role of the Professional Taxi and Private Hire Driver.
Another undercover BBC researcher, who had also done nothing other than pay, subsequently received a certificate stating he had passed his BTec level two.
Vista was one of several centres the BBC heard was facilitating fraudulently obtained qualifications.
During undercover filming Gerti Qamili, a college manager, bragged he personally had helped "over 300 students" fraudulently achieve the qualification.
The scam has been completely successful, winning licences from TfL for more than two years, Mr Qamili said.
He warned the researchers "not to tell anyone that someone does the test for you".
TAXI LEAKS EXTRA BIT:
Let’s not forget, this isn’t anything new....it was exposed in the Sun at the same time the online and fake medicals were exposed and yet after two years, it’s still going on
Caroline Pidgeon, deputy chair of London's Transport Committee, said: "Passengers are getting into those vehicles, and they need to know they're safe.
"To hear parts of that (qualifications) are being forged around London, that's not right, that's really worrying and TfL need to get a grip on this."
Helen Chapman, a director at TfL, said: "It is deeply concerning to learn that some colleges or schools could be illegally providing certificates.
"We will support the relevant authorities with any wider investigations into these organisations. We will take immediate action against any driver identified as fraudulently obtaining a licence."
TfL said all new applications in which the topographical test had been taken at a private college rather than at one of its eight official examination centres had now been put on hold.
Will this just be another scandal to be swept under the carpet ???
The question now is why have TfL allowed this to happen?
Should the responsibility for licensing Taxis and Private Hire be taken away from TfL, who again and again show they are inadequate as a regulator?
This story will be featured on BBC London TV News and Inside Out on BBC One in London on Monday 4 November at 19:30 GMT and afterwards on the iPlayer.