Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, yesterday announced a surprising raft of measures to support the black cab trade amid growing competition from private car hire services. Months of intense lobbying and a number of demonstrations paid off for the London taxi industry. Uber showed itself to be a bad loser, not only fighting the TfL’s language skills plans, but also criticising the mayor’s taxi plans.
Sadiq Khan has pledged to increase the number of taxi ranks from 500 to 600 over four years and to open up 20 more bus lanes for use by cabbies. He wants the Knowledge to be accredited as a formal qualification, allowing applicants to benefit from study loans. In 2017 £5,000 (€ 5.885) grants will be available to scrap old and polluting taxis. Transport for London (TfL) is also to feature taxi information in its online journey planners by summer 2017.
The plan demonstrates his intention to push ahead with new rules for private hire drivers such as Uber, the mayor’s office told The Guardian. These include requiring drivers to pass an English test and more robust insurance regulations. This would mean all drivers undergoing reading, writing and listening tests. A few weeks ago TfL’s opposite number in New York (TLC), decided to scrap English language requirements for New York cabbies.
Earlier this month, Uber – which allows users to book and pay for a cab through a smartphone app – was given the green light for a High Court challenge against TfL over the language rule.
Uber, which is used by about two million Londoners, claimed the proposals would pile “extra costs and red tape” onto licensed private hire drivers. Mayor Khan said he was “determined to drive up standards and improve safety for every passenger in London, while protecting the future of our iconic black cabs that provide a unique and invaluable service for London”.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), which has been lobbying long and hard for a better deal for the black cab trade, said it welcomed the plan. However, the RMT union, which represents taxi drivers, said it was “bitterly disappointed” that issues such as “illegal plying for hire and the abuse of the regulations” had not been tackled by the mayor.
It looks like the famous ‘Knowledge’, the geographical test to become a London taxi driver, will get a boost. What is this Knowledge? Dating back to 1865, the Knowledge is a study of the streets, routes and notable locations of London within a six-mile radius from Charing Cross station. Students of the Knowledge – very noticeable in London’s streets as they check out routes on their mopeds with clipboards – must know by heart the location of every street, theatre, pub, sport venue, embassy, hospital, tourist attraction, intersection and traffic light lying within this six-mile radius.
Drivers must memorise 320 different routes within this area.
The average time it takes to learn the Knowledge is 3.5 years and about 75% who embark on the course give up.
- London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has given the London taxi trade a big boost with his new plans.