Hands up all of those who think there should be more cabs out on the road - a ridiculous statement - I don’t think so.
Isn’t that the way in which to combat the hundreds of PH vehicles now flooding London and to counteract the perennial argument from the public that “they can never get a cab.”.
So why is it, that knowledge students are taking upwards of three, four and even five years to get their prized green badge.
Well think about it, back in the late 60s husband marrying into a cab driving family – father-in-law, uncles, and innumerable cousins was persuaded to do an Ilford yellow badge. Already working full time as a jewellery apprentice in Hatton Garden, Malcolm got his yellow badge in about five months, and took immediately to cab driving. And in those days, there was just one lone female. Working the Romford rank, Malcolm was appalled by the misogynists also working that rank and who wouldn’t even give her the time of day. So disheartened was she that she was on the verge of packing it in, until Malcolm gave her the courage to stand up to those bullies (present day Hollywood and House of Commons anyone).
A couple of years later, fed up with the jewellery trade, Malcolm decided to get his green badge. Having given up his apprenticeship, he signed on at the “job centre” and explained the Knowledge to them. They agreed it was a “training course” and therefore funded him to do this full time. And he wasn’t the only one – the job centre was quite happy to encourage knowledge boys and fund them. And so Malcolm got his badge in just 15 months. And he wasn’t the only one - knowledge boys were being churned out like hot potatoes – they spent all morning on their mopeds, afternoons at the Knowledge school and force fed runs to each other, until – as you all know – they were churning them out just like Ted Margolis!.
And they all got out so quickly because the system worked and so did they. Handed their blue book at their acceptance lecture, they knew they had their first appearance in 28 days. And they also knew that if they wanted to be cabbies, they had better get out and learn their first runs before that date, and as we all know, nothing concentrates the mind more quickly than a deadline.
And so we come to TFL. Handed the cab driver poisoned chalice, after the Met decided they could no longer afford to fund looking after cabbies on their 15 shilling licence fee, TFL decided to improve the system.
No longer would knowledge students be given an appointment – no, now they were told to go away and learn the blue book, and make an appointment when they had done so.
Now I don’t know about you, but if I’m told to go away and learn pages and pages of stuff and to come back when I’ve learnt it - I won’t even try. I’ll find endless excuses to do anything other than that.
And that in a nutshell is why knowledge students are taking so long. No longer funded by the Government, knowledge students are either working full or part time to fund their studies, consequently are dog tired at the end of the day – and isn’t it easier just to put your feet up and watch the box.
Just imagine how determined you have to be to finish those runs and how disheartening it is that TFL don’t actually care whether you come back in ten days, ten months or ten years. And so the days and months drift on, and before you know it, it’s been a couple of years and you’re still not through it.
So really it’s hats off to those students determined and self willed enough to actually finish their runs and get their first appearance. I’m not saying that the “old cabbies” didn’t have that same degree of grit and stoicism needed, of course they did but the Public Carriage Office actually helped – helped by giving them deadlines, fuelled by the knowledge that the students themselves were determined to get through
So just imagine if we could go back to being under the Met, who surely will now be able to afford to administer it since a licence is now £300 plus. And just imagine if all those students currently plodding their way through the blue book were contacted and told “first appearance 28 days”. Wouldn’t we see an increase in knowledge boys riding around London. Wouldn’t we then see a commensurate increase in the number of cabs on the road., as new cabbies whistled through the knowledge and came on line. And just imagine if all those new drivers signed up to TaxiApp, MyTaxi or Gett (and I’m not going into the rights and wrongs of apps here).
But just imagine if passengers realised how quickly and easily a black cab would be available if they just ordered it on their app. Just imagine Uber ‘s downfall (and let’s not forget there will be more uber-type PH companies) if passengers could order a black cab as simply, quickly and easily as they’ve been ordering an Uber.
Just imagine we could almost rule London
So although the thought of more cabs on the street might sound like a disaster, more cabs on the street and on apps can only be for the benefit and future of the trade.