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London Tories call to scrap the Knowledge of London

World-class standards threat

Hajera Blagg, Friday, December 11th, 2015

The Knowledge – a test that all black cab drivers must take in order to obtain a licence – is an integral part in maintaining London’s world-class black cab trade standards.

But now, the Greater London Authority Conservatives are calling for the test to be scrapped in its present form.

The test requires future black cab drivers to learn 25,000 street names, 320 routes and about 20,000 landmarks of public interest, including popular tourist destinations, museums, police stations, parks, schools, churches and theatres.

The Knowledge, which consists of a written exam and oral tests, usually takes two to four years to complete before drivers can successfully secure a licence.

In a report by Tory GLA member Richard Tracey, published today (December 11), calls were made to reduce the Knowledge requirements by two-thirds.

Tracey argued that the test was a “major barrier” to entry in the trade and was obsolete in the age of GPS navigation. The report pointed to the ageing black cab workforce, saying that the Knowledge was deterring future drivers from entering into the profession.

But branch officer for Unite’s London cab section Peter Rose argued that the Tories did not have any true concern for the future of their profession.

“Once again, this is just another example of the Tory party’s agenda to deregulate taxi and private hire services in favour of non-UK tax paying predatory invaders,” he said, referring to app-based services such as Uber.

“London’s fully accessible taxi service is a tremendous asset to the city, which year on year voted the world’s best,” Rose added. “Why would anyone want to change that?

“The idea that the Knowledge is a ‘barrier to entry in the trade’ is absolutely preposterous. It’s not a barrier to trade – it’s a qualification for the job.”

“You don’t encourage more people into the trade by lowering standards,” Rose went on to say. “There are many other measures that can be taken to aid recruitment – employing more examiners, removing associated fees , or creating apprenticeship programmes and bursaries similar to what’s available to students.”

Rose argued that, as the most accessible mode of transport, the London black cab service deserves support.

“All of our vehicles are fully wheelchair accessible, with 98 per cent of people in London being able to take a black cab,” he said. “That can’t be said for any other mode of transport in the city. That’s why what’s needed most of all is investment from Transport from London, not so-called reports that seek to destroy our profession and high standards.”

“Unite the union will continue leading the fightback against deregulation and low standards, just as it did with the Tory’s recent Law Commission review and Deregulation Bill.”

For more information on the Cab Trade’s fightback union, please visit unitetheunion.org/cabsection

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