Istanbul, taxi drivers

Taxi drivers in Istanbul will be obliged to speak English

Istanbul city council wants to force taxi drivers to speak English, wear uniforms and pass exams, but taxi unions firmly oppose to the idea.

Taxi drivers in Istanbul will be obliged to learn English: this is one of the several measures that the Metropolitan City Council of the Turkish city intends to introduce, which also wants to increase the number of taxi licenses available despite complaints from taxi drivers, seriously harmed by the drop in users due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The new project presented by the city council aims to establish a series of standards for the city’s taxi drivers, who in recent years have been at the center of numerous controversies accused of mistreating tourists or overcharging passengers, in addition to their war with Uber that culminated in the ban on using the app throughout Turkey.

If the new regulation is approved by the Transport Coordination Center (UKOME), it will establish measures such as an age limit for taxi drivers or the obligation to speak English; in addition, an academy will be created to test taxi drivers, who will be forced to wear an uniform and to work three different shifts. The option of paying for taxis through the Istanbulkart, a card used for public transport in Istanbul, is also introduced.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu has repeatedly complained about the lack of taxis in Istanbul, where there are only 17,395 taxi licenses for a city of 16 million inhabitants, and not a single new taxi license – which costs 1.9 million liras (more than 200,000 euros) – has been sold since 1960, when the city had just over one million inhabitants.

The mayor’s announcement to grant 6,000 additional taxi licenses has nevertheless sparked the anger of taxi drivers in Istanbul, whose associations complain about rising costs and the proliferation of pirate taxis operating without a license, among other problems they suffer.