Call to Scrap London Knowledge

The test that all black cab drivers in London must pass to secure a licence should be scrapped in its current form, according to the Conservatives.

The Greater London Authority Tories called the test - known as the Knowledge - "archaic" and a "major barrier" to recruitment.

The exam requires drivers to learn 25,000 street names.

Drivers' representatives said they were "stunned and shocked" by the suggestion.

The Saving An Icon report by Richard Tracey found black-cab drivers needed to make "fundamental changes" to keep up with the "increasingly popular app-based private hire firms" in an expanding city, and said it should be cut down by two-thirds.

He said the Knowledge was outdated in a world of GPS navigation, expensive, and could take people on average three years to complete.
"The examinations imposed are overly comprehensive in a time of GPS navigation, and the cost of purchasing the designated Hackney Carriage is a barrier to entry in an industry which is also rapidly ageing," he added.

But Steve McNamara, the general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association said: "I'm stunned and shocked that anybody would suggest doing anything that altered or lowered the standard of taxi driving.

"However, that does not mean that we wouldn't be prepared to review some issues... with the proviso that standards wouldn't be dropped." He said having such rigorous standards meant drivers "valued" their licences and "they did not want to lose it".

As part of the review Mr Tracey also suggested:

  • Analysis of the industry's competition
  • Drivers should be helped financially to purchase Hackney Carriages, which can cost twice as much as cars favoured by private hire drivers
  • Taxi ranks should come as standard with developments.

Taxi driver Nick, from Hertford, called the proposed move "devastating".

"It would be a huge backward step," he said. "For a forward-thinking city, why would you not want a very high standard of taxis? The only reason they would do would be to [bow] to the pressure of Uber."