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LONDON TAXI TEST: Is the Knowledge of London harder or easier now?

The iconic Knowledge of London (KoL), a comprehensive test for taxi drivers to master the city's streets, has evolved significantly over the decades.

But we ask the question… has the KoL become harder or easier to complete?

With London's expansion in density and height, the challenge of learning its intricate road network and numerous points of interest has intensified. The city's growth has led to more restaurants, businesses, and landmarks packed into towering buildings and densely developed areas, utilising every square inch of the capital like never before.

Additionally, the complex one-way systems, exemplified by areas like Covent Garden, and the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), have significantly altered and elongated the routes. It could be argued that these changes demand a deeper understanding and recollection of routes for taxi drivers undergoing the Knowledge exam.

A new challenge for more contemporary Knowledge students is learning about entirely new areas and communities that did not exist for some cabbies learning the capital decades ago. For instance, Canary Wharf was unheard of and the area was for a time disused docks, but now that has transformed into a sprawling network of towers on the Isle of Dogs, demanding closer attention on the Knowledge.

According to a seasoned taxi driver who completed the Knowledge in the 1980s, the process was more challenging back then due to a greater number of ‘Blue Book’ runs involved in the learning structure.

The Blue Book runs are seen as the foundational element when learning the Knowledge. These runs cover essential big road routes and areas in London. However, the learning does not stop at these books. Learning includes additional routes like the ‘Missing Pieces’ and turnaround books, which details smaller roads. There’s also the ‘livery runs’ which help cabbies better understand and recite the City of London. Moreover, there are books that cover runs spanning the entire radius learned within the Knowledge, such as from Crystal Palace to Alexandra Palace.

Critically, despite all these changes, the standard for passing the Knowledge has remained consistent, demanding that every candidate, regardless of their background, meets the required standard to earn their taxi licence.

While the fundamental standards of the Knowledge have stayed the same. the testing criteria over the years changed to stem the number of drivers entering the trade at its peak.

In a recent podcast video between Wizann’s Dean Warrington and the United Cabbies Group’s (UCG) Trevor Merralls, the current standards were discussed at great length.

Interestingly from the Knowledge school’s perspective, the perceived height of difficulty was between 1990’s and the 2000’s. Students at that stage were learning more obscure points than ever before. It is estimated that students can now get through the Knowledge knowing roughly 6,000 places of interest on top of the capital’s road network.

Is the Knowledge easier now? No. Is the Knowledge harder now? No. The required standard remains.

How students get to that standard more efficiently is likely to become the central discussion point moving forwards, especially as the industry awaits Transport for London’s Knowledge review findings soon.


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