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CHANGE TO THE KNOWLEDGE: Suburban run changes aim to speed up test to become London taxi driver

Updated: Aug 1, 2021

Changes to the Knowledge of London (KOL) are set to go live next month after industry representatives and regulators look for ways to increase the number of students undertaking the training.

London's taxi drivers must know the quickest routes through London's complicated road network. There are thousands of streets and landmarks within a six mile radius of Charing Cross. Anyone who wants to drive an iconic London cab must memorize them all: the Knowledge of London (KOL).

The KOL was introduced as a requirement for taxi drivers in 1865. Mastering the Knowledge typically takes students three to four years.

The intense taxi driver test has come under scrutiny recently as industry representatives look for ways to increase the number of students undertaking the training.

As it stands, the number of candidates studying the KOL at the testing stages, otherwise known as ‘Appearances’, is currently 676. In addition, as of June 2021, there were 555 candidates that had not yet reached the testing stages, but were signed on to the KOL and learning the capital’s road network.

According to trade sources the final ‘Suburban’ test has now been condensed to include fewer routes out of central London into the suburbs.

Steve McNamara, LTDA General Secretary, said in Taxi Newspaper: “TfL has officially announced that the planned changes to stage six of the Knowledge – the suburban runs – first proposed in May, will be introduced from Monday 2nd August.

“Knowledge candidates will only have to learn 27 suburban routes, each with a single start and finish point, as opposed to the hundreds of combinations they must currently know. The changes are designed to remove duplication and reduce the time this stage takes from nearly three months to just four weeks.

“As I’ve said before, this is not the dumbing down of the Knowledge or ‘beginning of the end’ that some will suggest. These changes will take us back to the simpler much more effective system we had before the suburban runs took on a life of their own and it started taking months for drivers to complete this stage, despite the fact that many never use these routes again. I welcome the change and hope others will too.

“The Knowledge should not and must not be watered down but I think that any changes that make it more appealing to new applicants and remove some of the more cumbersome processes and procedures, will benefit the trade and ensure we have new blood coming in, which is vital over the next few years.”


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