Conservatives on the London Assembly have called for the Knowledge, the test undergone by all London black cab drivers, to be “scrapped”.
According to a new report published by Assembly Member Richard Tracey “young drivers are increasingly put off by the length and cost of the complex exam.”
Dropping the test in its current form is part of an eight point plan Mr Tracey says would help “save” the trade which is under increasing competition from mini cab firms, including Uber.
He’s proposing cutting the time drivers spend learning London’s streets from the current average of three years to just one, seeking sponsorship to pay for the rollout of cashless payment technologies in cabs and making Transport for London “a more pro-active taxi and PHV (Private Hire Vehicle) regulator”.
Other proposals include TfL offering interest-free loans for the purchase of new cabs and making taxi ranks a standard requirement for all large new developments.
Mr Tracey said: “The plight of London’s iconic black cabs is increasingly worrying as consumers seek out a cheaper and more streamlined service through app-based firms like Uber.
“I want this world-renowned industry, which has been a staple of London’s culture and image, to survive. But to do so it must make some fundamental changes to its pricing structure and the way it operates.
“The Knowledge has long been the gold standard of our black cabs but demanding that new drivers learn thousands of different routes and points of interest to memory is outdated and archaic in an age of sat-navs.
“Cutting down the Knowledge as part of a package of reforms will level the playing field for our much-loved cabbies and ensure our roads remain full of this popular and practical icon for the foreseeable future.”
Mr Tracey’s proposal to modify the Knowledge has been criticised by Steve McNamara of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association who said: “I am stunned that any elected representative would want to reduce the quality of service and gold standard reputation that the London Taxi Trade delivers.
“To suggest that lowering our standards to that of Uber and others in some sort of race to the bottom is ludicrous in the extreme.
“I would question the timing, motives and possible influences of senior Tory figures with this report being published just 16 days before the closure of TfLs consultation into Private Hire standards in London”