Number of taxi students tested on ‘Knowledge of London’ falls below 1,000

The number of students currently being tested to become London taxi drivers has fallen to under 1,000 according to regulator data.

The stats published by Transport for London (TfL) show that 943 students are currently being tested on the world famous ‘Knowledge of London’ (KOL), which will earn them the right to ply for hire in the capital.

Stages 3-5 are classed as one-to-one oral ‘Appearance’ tests with a KOL examiner.

The number of candidates studying the KOL is currently 471 at Stage 3, 302 at Stage 4 and 170 at Stage 5. In addition, as of November 2019, there were 714 candidates that had not yet reached Stage 3.

According to TfL: “Each appearance usually consists of four questions about the shortest route between any two points in London. An appearance takes about 20 minutes, and you'll get a score from A-D.

“Depending on your score you will accumulate points; when you have enough you will progress to the next stage, when appearances will become more frequent. However, if you get too many Ds, you may be put back to a previous stage.

“At Stage 3, appearances are about 56 days apart, at Stage 4 they are about 28 days apart, and at Stage 5 they are about 21 days apart. On average you will have to score on four appearances to accumulate enough points to progress to the next stage.”

As the iconic black cabs can be hailed in the street, taxi drivers 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. This is why taxi drivers have to learn and pass the world-famous Knowledge.

The Knowledge was introduced as a requirement for taxi drivers in 1865 and completing the test usually takes students three to four years.

In a recent Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) podcast with taxi drivers who recently passed the KOL, they all recommended others to take up the challenge.

One student said “it was a life changing experience” and they enjoyed “the flexibility and freedom to earn your living”.

However, negativity within the industry shown on social media is said to be putting would-be drivers off. In a recent tweet, the LTDA said: “Back in the day you occasionally got the odd cabbie telling you “the games dead mate”.

“Different story now, the doom and gloom merchants negative messaging permeates through every pore of social media portraying a very wrong and grim picture!”

Other factors including local and national regulatory issues and the rise in numbers of private hire drivers, which currently sits at 109,104 in the capital, are both said to have impacted numbers on KOL, despite the positive feedback from students making the move into the taxi industry.

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