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Mayor hails 150th anniversary of The Knowledge and sets out vision for 21st Century taxi trade

  • Mayor meets newly ‘badged’ drivers to celebrate 150 years of The Knowledge of London

  • £65m secured to assist drivers in upgrading to the next generation of zero emission capable taxis and remove the oldest and most polluting vehicles from the fleet

  • Compliance Team doubled to help crack down on illegal minicab activity

The Mayor today (Thursday 25 June) met with newly ‘badged’ black cab drivers at City Hall and set out his vision for a 21st century taxi trade, emphasising his commitment to ensure that it maintains its position as a world-leading service.

The newly qualified drivers were presented with their badges at City Hall and congratulated by the Mayor, TfL and representatives from trade associations.  The phenomenal achievement – which involves memorising 25,000 streets and 100,000 landmarks within a six mile radius of Charing Cross – is all the more special this year as The Knowledge of London celebrates its 150thanniversary.Initiated in 1865, The Knowledge of London is the most advanced and prestigious taxi driver test in the world, and has been overseen by TfL since 2000 – prior to this it was the responsibility of the Metropolitan Police Service.

As well as meeting the Capital’s newest taxi drivers, the Mayor affirmed his commitment to the trade, ensuring there is a sustainable future for London’s iconic black cabs.  Both the Mayor and TfL are working hard to ensure that the future is safer, easier and greener for taxi drivers and their passengers.  Action the Mayor and TfL are taking to help support the trade includes:

  • Doubling the number of officers on the TfL Compliance Team.  The team is responsible, along with the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) Cab Enforcement Unit, for tackling illegal minicab activity across the Capital.  The Compliance Team will increase by 41 additional members of staff to 82 and follows the Mayor’s doubling of the MPS Cab Enforcement Unit since he came into office – which now has 68 officers.

The new Compliance Officers will be involved in Operation Neon, which will be extended throughout July and August, running every Friday and Saturday night, to crack down on touting and illegal minicab activity.  To date, Operation Neon has resulted in 2,124 private hire drivers being moved on, more than 920 private hire drivers reported for not having a badge or not wearing their badge, 173 drivers reported for parking on taxi ranks and more than 380 parking tickets issued.

  • Proposed changes to taxi regulations for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).  TfL will shortly undertake a further consultation on changes to taxi and private hire licensing as part of the ULEZ proposals.  This will include a new proposal to retain the existing 15 year age limit for all taxis and a voluntary scheme to retire the oldest, most polluting taxis.  The Mayor has also reaffirmed his commitment that, subject to consultation, it is proposed that from 1 January 2018 all newly licensed taxis – and new PHVs – must be ZEC.  TfL is working with a number of manufacturers and is confident that ZEC taxis will be available for sale from 2017, three years ahead of the introduction of the ULEZ.  With the number of manufacturers involved, the market is set to grow and so give cabbies unprecedented choice in selecting their vehicles.
  • A £65m fund to encourage the cleanest and greenest taxi fleet in the world.  The Mayor is committed to helping the taxi trade transition to ZEC vehicles as part of his ULEZ proposals.  Under the proposal, a £65m fund would be used to enable up to £8,000 in grants for cabbies wishing to buy ZEC taxis.  It would also include an additional, voluntary decommissioning scheme to retire the oldest most polluting taxis.  From 2017, drivers of taxis over 10 years old would be able to claim up to an additional £5,000, with the precise amount depending on the age of their vehicle.  This is intended to reflect the current challenges facing the trade while tackling London’s air quality in the most effective and sustainable way‎.
  • Limiting the number of private hire vehicles.  The Mayor is pressing for urgent Parliamentary legislation to secure new powers for London to be able to cap the growing number of private hire drivers.  At the end of the latest period, there were more than 80,500 minicab drivers in London and over the past year that number has risen by over 13,000.  At this rate, over the next two years, there will be approximately an additional 26,000 minicab drivers – bringing the total number to more than 105,000.  The Mayor is concerned that this unprecedented rise in numbers is causing increased congestion, particularly in central London, as well as more pollution and problems of illegal parking.
  • A major review of minicab regulations, including English language and better geographical knowledge requirements for drivers.  TfL has recently concluded a consultation about new private hire regulations.  Current regulations were designed before the rapid expansion of the private hire industry and before the development of new technology.  Requirements like an English language and geographical knowledge tests are among those that are being considered.  The results of the consultation will be available later this summer, and any changes implemented soon thereafter.
  • Enabling payment of fares by card, contactless and Apple Pay.  As part of a major change to taxi fare payments, TfL is now consulting on whether passengers should be able to pay for their journeys in black taxis by card.  The consultation proposals were endorsed at a meeting last month between TfL, the Deputy Mayor for Transport, senior taxi trade representatives and card providers.  Currently there is no requirement for taxis to accept card payments, and only around half of drivers do, despite a recent survey suggesting that 83 per cent of passengers would like to be able to pay by card.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “I’m absolutely delighted to congratulate the latest cohort of black cab drivers who’ve mastered The Knowledge of London.  It is a phenomenal achievement that makes London’s cabbies renowned around the world.  Our iconic black taxis are an integral part of life in our city and I’m determined to do everything to ensure that the trade thrives and continues to offer a gold service to passengers.  There are challenges on many fronts, but I believe that just as it has done for the past 150 years, the trade can move with the times and remain an integral part of our transport network.”

Garrett Emmerson, TfL’s Chief Operating Officer for Surface Transport, said: “The Knowledge of London is a formidable undertaking, requiring years of study and dedication.  It is an integral part of why the London taxi trade is widely viewed as the best in the world.  We are determined to preserve this position and to continue working hard for the future of the trade, for both existing drivers and for the new cabbies who are receiving their badges today, in the 150th year of The Knowledge of London process.”

As well as the above, the policy of allowing taxis to use bus lanes has been successfully defended at the High Court and following a favourable ruling from the European Court of Justice, we continue to defend our policy in the Court of Appeal.  TfL have also made an application to the High Court for a declaration on whether the device used in Uber vehicles constitutes a taximeter.The Mayor and TfL are also developing and expanding the number of taxi ranks in the capital as part of ongoing work to support the trade and to better meet the needs of drivers and passengers.  More than a third of the 70 million taxi journeys completed in London each year originate from a taxi rank.  As part of a Taxi Rank Action Plan TfL has set out ambitious plans to expand the network of 500 taxi ranks that TfL has appointed, with £600,000 funding to increase the number of ranks by 20 per cent by 2020.

All of this action is being undertaken in order to preserve and boost the historic trade that has been an essential part of London’s fabric since 1662.  Taxis provide a crucial service and accessible service, which, under the stewardship of the Mayor and TfL, will continue in order to ensure that London keeps working and growing.


Further information

The famous Knowledge of London examination process was introduced by Sir Richard Mayne, the joint first Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service.  It was the result of many complaints received from the thousands of visitors to the Great Exhibition at London’s Hyde Park, in 1851.  Having read the numerous complaints, the Commissioner of Police stated that “it was an unacceptable fact that many of London’s Cabbies did not hold a good enough topographical knowledge of this great city, and that a solution was needed”.  It was initiated in 1865, and has changed little since.  The training involved ensures that London taxi drivers are experts on London, and have an intimate knowledge of the city.

The £65m of funding for purchasing ZEC vehicles will come from both TfL and Government.  Subject to consultation, this funding could be used to support:

    • A voluntary “decommissioning” scheme – whereby the owner of taxis over ten years old may claim a compensation payment for forfeiting the right to re-license that taxi, therefore helping to remove the oldest, most polluting vehicles from the fleet;
    • ‘Top-up’ grants, which can be used in addition to the Government plug in car-grant, in order to help purchase a ZEC taxi.

Increasing TfL’s enforcement capability is a further step in the efforts being made by both the Mayor and TfL to boost the taxi trade, following the announcement earlier this year of the Taxi Rank Action Plan, which will see £600,000 invested to increase the number of ranks by 20 per cent (from 500 to 600) by 2020

    • Operation Neon is a high-visibility, multi-agency operation to deter and disrupt illegal minicab activity, along with other enforcement operations.  Operation Neon was launched in May following consultation with trade representatives.

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