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TAXI TRENDS: TfL data reveals worrying number of ‘Knowledge’ applicants over last nine years

The traditional test for London's black cab drivers, famously known as The Knowledge of London (KoL), has seen fluctuating interest over the past nine years. A comprehensive analysis of the data from 2016 onwards reveals a varied picture of the annual number of applicants wishing to master the city's intricate network of streets and landmarks.

In 2016, a total of 444 aspirants applied to take The Knowledge test, marking the beginning of a discernible downward trend that persisted until 2021. The year 2017 saw a slight dip to 416 applicants, followed by a further decrease in 2018 to 361 candidates. This gradual decline continued, with the numbers marginally dropping to 356 in 2019.

However, the most significant decline was observed in 2020, amid global health concerns, which saw the number of applicants halve to 178. The following year, 2021, mirrored this low level of interest, with a marginal decrease to 174 candidates.

However, a turnaround occurred in 2022, as the number of applicants surged to 440, closely mirroring the figures seen at the outset in 2016. This upward trajectory reached its peak in 2023, with 579 individuals applying to take the test, indicating a renewed interest in becoming a cabbie in the capital. The year 2024, so far sees 108 applicants applying.

The Knowledge of London test, which requires an in-depth understanding of over 25,000 streets and countless points of interest within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross, has been a rite of passage for aspiring black cab drivers for over 150 years.

The test is notorious for its difficulty, with a completion time ranging from three to four years on average, depending on whether candidates study full-time or part-time. Some individuals may complete the test in less time, while others may take significantly longer to navigate through the rigorous process.


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