London’s black cabs are an inseparable part of the city. So much so that these taxis have attained a legendary stature hardly paralleled anywhere else in the world. Modernization, however, has seen to it that not all the black cabs in greater London remain black; a trendy, streamlined version has now replaced some of the old ones.
Ever since the days of horse drawn carriages, the specifications of London’s taxis have been regulated. In 1679, passenger safety concerns resulted in the development of Conditions of Fitness. These requirements, modified as and when necessary, are still strictly enforced by the Public Carriage Office, a division of the Metropolitan Police. The London taxi which lingers in most people’s memories is the Austin FX-4, which was introduced in 1959 and remained in production until 1997.
A London taxi is subject to thorough periodic inspections and is retired after 10 to 12 years and thousands of miles of service. When retired, many of them move away to other cities where rules are less stringent. Some are dismantled and their parts sold off. A collector feels proud if he does have a London taxi in his collection. “The Knowledge” test Membership of the team of London’s black cab drivers does not come easy.
Drivers have to get through a tough test known as “The Knowledge” before earning the right to sit behind the wheel. They have to memorize almost every road near central London and also be familiar with the location of every hospital, theatre, train station, hotel etc. Finally, they undergo months of tough tests before being eligible for the certificate.