Updated: Jun 13
Making the Knowledge of London easier and quicker will impact the amount taxi drivers can charge via the meter, says London taxi rep.
Alarm bells having been ringing in the cabbie community for some time after data revealed the number of students currently being tested to become London taxi drivers has fallen to its lowest level yet, to just 552.
In November 2019 the number of candidates studying the Knowledge of London (KOL) at the testing stages, otherwise known as ‘Appearances’, dropped below 1,000 for the first time and stood at 943. In addition, there were 714 candidates that had not yet reached the testing stages, but were signed on to the KOL and learning the capital’s road network.
Fast forward post-pandemic restrictions to August 2021 and the number of KOL candidates at the testing stages tumbles further to just 552, and worryingly only a further 363 candidates are currently waiting to reach the testing stages. TfL now no longer publish the results relating to the number of KOL students actively learning.
As a result, the KOL taxi driver test has recently come under scrutiny as industry representatives look for ways to increase the number of students undertaking the training. In The Times it was reported that a ‘dumbed down’ version of the test could be introduced which would only take around 2 years to complete instead of the usual 3-4 years. It was argued that the test would be more streamlined to maintain standards and speed up testing, but further details have yet to materialise from the regulators.
It is widely accepted that changes do have to be made to at least maintain and stabilise the number of qualified black cab drivers in the capital, but there are now concerns that making the test quicker and easier will impact the earning potential of cabbies via the metered tariff.
Trevor Merralls, General Secretary of the United Cabbie Group (UCG), said: “If, and I must emphasise if, there is a watering down of the standards on the Knowledge of London (KOL), make NO MISTAKE that will eventually be reflected via our meter.
“Be careful what you wish for. One tier or two, it’s up to you.”
A TfL spokesperson told TaxiPoint: “London taxi drivers are world-renowned for setting the gold standard for taxi services, due in part to the Knowledge of London. As the regulator of the trade in the capital, we regularly review the standards, including The Knowledge, working collaboratively with taxi trade representatives to ensure Londoners continue to receive a safe and reliable service.”
The Knowledge was introduced as a requirement for taxi drivers in 1865 and completing the test usually takes students three to four years.
All those wishing to drive one of London’s iconic black cabs must have a thorough knowledge of London within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. Tens of thousands of road names and places of interest must be learnt, which is why taxi drivers have to learn and pass the world-famous Knowledge.
Around 70% of students training to become licensed London taxi drivers DO NOT COMPLETE the Knowledge of London testing process, the Mayor of London recently revealed.