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It is the famously challenging test faced by London taxi drivers, but The Knowledge could soon be a thing of the past.

Figures show the number of new applications for black cab licences has dropped by almost 95 per cent in a decade, from 3,484 in 2011/12 to just 221 last year.

The decline has sparked fears that the world-famous exam faces ‘extinction’ unless Transport For London, which runs the system, overhauls the industry.

Introduced in the mid 19th Century, The Knowledge requires drivers to memorise 25,000 streets and 100,000 landmarks within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. 

Successful applicants have to pass up to a dozen interviews with the entire process taking up to four years.

It is the famously challenging test faced by London taxi drivers, but The Knowledge could soon be a thing of the past. Figures show the number of new applications for black cab licences has dropped by almost 95% in a decade, from 3,484 in 2011/12 to just 221 last year

It is the famously challenging test faced by London taxi drivers, but The Knowledge could soon be a thing of the past. Figures show the number of new applications for black cab licences has dropped by almost 95% in a decade, from 3,484 in 2011/12 to just 221 last year

It is the famously challenging test faced by London taxi drivers, but The Knowledge could soon be a thing of the past. Figures show the number of new applications for black cab licences has dropped by almost 95% in a decade, from 3,484 in 2011/12 to just 221 last year

Introduced in the mid 19th Century, The Knowledge requires drivers to memorise 25,000 streets and 100,000 landmarks within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. It was immortalised in a 1979 television comedy drama - called The Knowledge (above) - written by the late Jack Rosenthal

Introduced in the mid 19th Century, The Knowledge requires drivers to memorise 25,000 streets and 100,000 landmarks within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. It was immortalised in a 1979 television comedy drama - called The Knowledge (above) - written by the late Jack Rosenthal

Introduced in the mid 19th Century, The Knowledge requires drivers to memorise 25,000 streets and 100,000 landmarks within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. It was immortalised in a 1979 television comedy drama – called The Knowledge (above) – written by the late Jack Rosenthal

It was immortalised in a 1979 television comedy drama – called The Knowledge – written by the late Jack Rosenthal. 

The ensemble cast included Rosenthal wife’s Maureen Lipman, Nigel Hawthorne and Mick Ford.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Dean Warrington, founder of the Wizann Knowledge School, one of the largest in London, said: ‘Our learning school used to be 3,000 square feet — we’re now down to 300 square feet. 

‘At our peak we would have four to five hundred students a year, but now it’s somewhere between 50 and one hundred.

‘Four years ago, I told City Hall that if they do not change things then we are not just in trouble, we are going to become extinct. You only have a certain amount of time to make changes and it may already be too late. I hope it isn’t.’

Perry Richardson, founder of TaxiPoint magazine, said London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan was ‘very quiet about publicising the benefits of the taxi industry and the service it provides to London’.

He added: ‘In his view, black taxis are not seen as a mode of public transport, even though you are compelled to take anyone that hails you and access within key areas of London is diminishing.

Perry Richardson, founder of TaxiPoint magazine, said London's Mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured last November) was 'very quiet about publicising the benefits of the taxi industry and the service it provides to London'

Perry Richardson, founder of TaxiPoint magazine, said London's Mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured last November) was 'very quiet about publicising the benefits of the taxi industry and the service it provides to London'

Perry Richardson, founder of TaxiPoint magazine, said London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured last November) was ‘very quiet about publicising the benefits of the taxi industry and the service it provides to London’

‘That attitude feeds through to drivers and is part of the reason why they might say ‘”don’t bother, it’s a dying trade”. It’s not. 

‘It just needs reassurance that taxis are a vital part of the transport network and if you are going to invest £70,000 into a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, you are going to have a viable job in ten, 15, 20 years’ time.’

Graham Robinson, TfL’s General Manager of Taxi and Private Hire, said: ‘We have seen a decline in people wanting to undertake the Knowledge, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. 

‘We are working with stakeholders, including taxi representatives, to look at ways of making studying to be a black cab driver more appealing.’

But Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said: ‘Is the Knowledge dead? No, it’s not. It just needs to be made more relevant to the 21st Century. 

‘I’m pretty confident that people will realise there’s still a good living to be made from driving a cab.’ 

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, said: 'Is the Knowledge dead? No, it's not. It just needs to be made more relevant to the 21st Century'

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association, said: 'Is the Knowledge dead? No, it's not. It just needs to be made more relevant to the 21st Century'

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said: ‘Is the Knowledge dead? No, it’s not. It just needs to be made more relevant to the 21st Century’

Source: Daily Mail

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