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Taxis and private hire vehicles in London: why do media organisations struggle to tell the difference

18 May 2019

 

So you are sitting there reading the news on your tablet, whilst slurping on your morning coffee before going to work; when you see the headline in the Daily Mail "Shocking moment foolish taxi passenger runs into the path of a London bus - and is only saved by the driver's quick reactions."

 

Although there is nothing unusual about the headline, it has piqued your interest.

You open the article up and there is video footage of the incident. You watch the video footage, only to realise that the article has been misreported. 

 

You discover after watching the video that the vehicle involved in the incident is not a taxi at all, it is in-fact a private hire vehicle, a minicab.

 

The event described above is a real event, which was reported on 16 May.

 

So why the angst over an article based on nothing more than semantics, taxis and private hire vehicles or minicabs are all the same, right? Wrong, they are not the same whatsoever.

 

In London there are major fundamental differences between taxis and private hire vehicles.

 

A taxi is a hackney carriage and the term black cab is also used, although this is a misnomer given that a massive proportion of taxis aren't black. 

 

In London there are currently three types of taxi on the road; the TX series, which is very traditional in its shape and style; the Mercedes Vito, which is a converted Mercedes Vito Van; and finally the LEVC taxi, which is the licensed taxi industry's first zero emission capable taxi. All are 100% wheelchair accessible.

 

The way to become a taxi driver in London is fairly straightforward, you have to pass a series of vocational exams called The Knowledge. This qualification process can take in excess of three years to pass before you can drive a taxi, there is no barrier to entry to sign-up to The Knowledge, provided that your background checks show that you are of good character. 

 

The most easily identifiable part of a taxi is the titular "taxi" sign on the roof, it's a giveaway.

 

In London, a private hire vehicle, also known as a minicab, can literally be any four door vehicle on the road. They are identified by a small Green roundal in either the front or rear window.

 

PHVs are only allowed to operate via a pre-booking system, unlike taxis which can be hailed on the street.

 

There is no barrier to entry in becoming a minicab driver, which is one of the reasons that there are currently over 100,000 registered PHV drivers.

 

Many people from within the taxi industry have theories as to why journalists in particular struggle to tell the difference between taxis and PH vehicles. 

 

Many drivers also believe it is a deliberate policy to conflate the two trades, so as to homogenise the two very different industries. 

 

Some believe that because London is somewhat unique in the fact that taxis are so very different to PHVs, many journalists get confused because they aren't from London or based in London, and therefore genuinely don't know or understand the differences.

 

Another theory is that the word "taxi" is an attention grabber in relation to certain headlines.

 

London's taxi drivers are entitled to be aggrieved, given the fact that making the effort to qualify as a taxi driver, only for somebody to then bestow that job title onto a third party who is unqualified and clearly not part of the same profession is deeply galling.

 

Whatever the reasons, those within the media choose to conflate the two different industries, education should be the key. Explaining the differences in the hope that the same mistakes won't continue to proliferate should be the way forward.

 

Image Source: TfL 

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