In a recent move to make London's black cab drivers more secure, Conservatives in the Greater London Authority have issued a report, "Saving an Icon: Rescuing London's Black Cabs from Extinction." The authors of this report suggest that the time to pass the Knowledge, the text that London's black cab drivers must pass in order to secure a license, be reduced from three years to one and they argue that the test is archaic and overly difficult in the age of electronic navigation systems. For the Knowledge, the applicant must memorise 25,000 streets within a six mile radius of Charing Cross station as well as an additional 100,000 landmarks and places of interest which range from touristic sites to hospitals, libraries, and schools.
Now with Uber and other minicab services, London's black cabs are under threat of extinction with 25,000 black taxi drivers who must pass through exorbitant intellectual and financial measures to secure a license going against the current of the 60,000 minicab drivers who do not have to demonstrate any familiarity with London and who only need to show that they can use the Greater London A-Z Mapbook and the major motorways. The differences between the two qualifications are astounding and the prices equally so with London's black cabs rated as the most expensive in the world according to Tripadvisor in 2013.
The report states that if London cabs are to survive the onslaught of services such as Uber the following steps must be taken:
1. The entry requirements for the London Knowledge must be reduced by two thirds
2. Sponsorship should pay for the rollout of cashless payment technologies
3. PHV licence fees must be increased in line with black cab licences
4. TfL must be re-shaped as a more pro-active taxi and PHV (Private Hire Vehicle) regulator
5. TfL should offer interest-free loans to drivers for the purchase of new Hackney Carriages
6. The introduction of ULEZ (ultra low emission zone) regulations for black cabs should be delayed until 2020
7. The Mayor of London should commission a competition review of the taxi industry
8. Taxi ranks should come as standard for all large new developments
Certainly the costs of training for the Knowledge and other vehicular exams are prohibitive today in an age when university tuition is unaffordable to most and it seems that becoming an adult in any career path necessitates what resembles 19th century indentured servitude. Only instead of having to pay a colonial power for one's transport from South Asia to the Caribbean, one must now pay a bank for studies that used to be free and or for a TX4 model cab from the London Taxi Company costing just under £43,000. In an age where economies are shrinking, the differences between these two services from the perspective of the driver are severe. Essentially, it comes down to diametrically opposed scenarios: in one the driver needs to pass time-consuming, rigorous and expensive tests, in the other, you have a dude with a mobile phone.