The number of students currently being tested to become London taxi drivers has fallen to its lowest level yet, to just 552, according to latest regulator data.
In November 2019 the number of candidates studying the 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.
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.
What is the Knowledge of London?
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.
How do you get tested on the Knowledge of London?
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.
According to trade sources a final ‘Suburban’ test has now recently been condensed to include fewer routes out of central London into the suburbs to speed up the final testing stage. Upon completion of the ‘Suburban’ test the KOL student will then be handed their bill and badge to allow them to ply-for-hire as a licensed taxi driver.
There are currently 20,027 licensed taxi drivers in the capital. Of those 17,910 hold All London licences, otherwise known as ‘Green Badges’, and 2,337 hold ‘Yellow‘ Suburban licences.