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Iconic London taxi test should NOT be made easier says Knowledge School

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

One of London’s taxi schools, The Knowledge Point School, has said it does not think the world’s toughest taxi test, the Knowledge of London (KoL), should be made easier to help increase its popularity and improve applicant numbers.

In recent times the debate on whether the test, which on average takes an applicant around three years to complete, is unnecessarily hard.

The KoL has always been recognised as the toughest taxi test on the planet, and even been compared to a University degree. Since the introduction and progressive technology surrounding satellite navigation systems, the question has been asked “do taxi drivers really need to know where they are going?”

The simple answer to that is “yes“. Satellite navigation systems are a great addition to any taxi driver's day, but nothing can replace the knowledge a driver contains in his head. Years and years of studying the intricate road system, which yes, is ever evolving, puts a London cabbie at the top of his/her game.

The issue being faced currently is the length of time it takes to achieve the coveted ‘Green badge’, compared to easy access and “competition” faced by tech hailing work through a private hire licence.

Current figures show that there are only around 850 students studying to be an ‘all’ London taxi driver. Numbers have seen a decline in recent years, which is believed to have been caused by work levels dropping, due to the introduction of ride-hailing apps such as Uber, as well as new vehicle requirements put in place by Transport for London as they push towards a zero emissions capable fleet.

For someone who is considering starting the long road to becoming a licensed taxi driver, immense effort for what reward, has to be at the forefront of any applicant's mind.

For any student who eventually completes the Knowledge of London test, accessing a vehicle to work in needs to be considered, and at an average cost of around £60-70k for a new electric TXE taxi, it’s a financial commitment not to be sniffed at.

New drivers always had the option of renting a taxi for a few years as they navigated the so-called “butterboy“ years. But with so many of the diesel taxis now being decommissioned due to emissions requirements, there are very few available taxis to rent.

Latest figures, as of 30 January, show that there are currently 19,741 taxi driver licences, yet only 14,390 taxi vehicles licensed. Only 5,093 of those vehicles are electric zero emission capable taxis. Looking at those figures, there is already a shortage of taxis for drivers who already have licences, let alone any new drivers joining the trade.

Early last year, some suggestions were made to possibly help decrease the length of time it takes to complete the iconic test.

Some of the ideas mentioned to reform the KoL included scrapping the final outer London test known as the ‘Suburbs’ test. Learning these routes can take 4 months and are rarely utilised whilst working as a taxi driver.

Another idea focuses around removing ‘red-lining’ from the testing process, which can send students BACK a level in the testing process. The idea suggested is that the student should now simply remain on the same level until they meet the required standard to move onto the next testing stage.

But in a recent tweet by the Knowledge Point School, who have helped and guided thousands of applicants through the course, have said the testing process should NOT be changed in any way, saying: “We have said it before and will say it again: The knowledge does NOT need to be changed in any way.

”The Redline is there for a reason. Unprepared students will always be redlined because they are trying to get through the KoL too quickly. Quality over quantity.”

In response to the tweet, taxi drivers have had their say on the debate. One wrote: "Spot on, we need to keep our standards. Driving tests should also be reintroduced."

Another wrote: "But at the current rate of decline, there is evidence to suggest the KoL will be reaching 0 students by the end of the decade. Something will have to give, surely?."

Russ, a current London cabbie, said: "It already changed. The average time taken doubled in a few decades. Could it go back to being average 18 months to 2 years? Currently unnecessary long."

But a spokesperson for the Knowledge Point School, replied: "It used to be shameful to talk about being redlined because everyone was doing the work. Nowadays it's a badge of honour if you've been redlined. It is long because people are not committed to KoL."

One thing is for sure, there doesn't seem to be a clear path to ensuring the Knowledge of London flourishes in the future and whether or not it should remain the same or change. The debate is still very much up in the air, but major players and regulators of the trade need to sit down, look at the figures and facts and make a decision to help preserve the the toughest taxi test and ultimately the world's most iconic taxi service.


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