The case against London cabbies

It's time to end the archaic privileges of taxi drivers

1 February 2014

I lost my misguided faith in black cabs last week, on the corner of Royal College Street in north London. It was the tiniest trip — 2.4 miles from Bloomsbury to my Camden flat at 11.30 in the evening. Hard to mess up, too: empty roads, good weather and the easiest of routes — practically a straight line to my flat. To my horror, the cabbie dodged the obvious, straight route and embarked on an extended loop through the traffic-choked hub of Camden Town tube station and Camden Market.

I pointed him in the right direction and he reluctantly did a U-turn and headed up Royal College Street. Not a word of apology — and still a £11.20 fare for a ten-minute journey. No tip, needless to say.

I can’t know whether he was ripping me off or merely clueless. But either way, in the days of satnav, it’s staggeringly incompetent. And in the days of highly efficient taxi and minicab apps — like Uber, Addison Lee and Kabbee — it’s unforgiveable. The exclusive privileges given to black cabs must go.

Black cabs are the go-slow thugs of the road. Overpriced, selective in who they pick up, arrogant about their knowledge and the Knowledge, nasty to other drivers, homicidal to bicyclists, bullying to competitors, they crawl across our cities in a puffed-up bubble of self-importance that has needed pricking for years.

The myth that the Knowledge is some astounding feat of memory is no longer true, if it ever was. In 15 years, no black cab driver has ever known the quickest route to my flat. Yes, it’s impressive to learn 320 routes within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. And cabbies were particularly gratified in 2000, when scientists at University College London discovered that black cab drivers often had an enlarged hippocampus — the part of the brain associated with navigation in birds and other animals. But none of that matters with modern technology. Google Maps and TomTom can even tell you where surprise traffic jams are. No hippocampus can do that.


There’s no justification left for a predominant, controlling group of cabs, with a monopoly on being hailed on the street or from airport taxi ranks. Access to the job is controlled through oral, one-on-one exams by PCO examiners, giving them a hugely subjective role in choosing who makes the grade. Throw in exclusive parking spaces for black cabs and the right to use bus lanes, and you have one of the last unreformed trades, with heavily restricted practices, in the country.

The moment any rival tries to open up the market, black cab drivers bring the capital to a halt. A few years ago, Westminster council decided, utterly reasonably, to set up a minicab rank off Leicester Square, from Thursday to Saturday, from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. — when black cabs are inevitably in short supply. In response, a huge fleet of black cabs blocked the Mall for several hours and brought central London to a standstill.

With their exclusive rights protected by the Public Carriage Office, and their rivals held back, black cabs behave like any cartel — they squeeze their advantages for all their worth. On countless occasions, I’ve gone nuts at the little tricks drivers use to extend the journey time: gradually slowing down in approach to a green light, willing it to turn red; slowing down before a zebra crossing in the hope that a pedestrian will come along; moving off at the lights at a glacial pace; piling on infinitesimal fractions of seconds to the journey by taking a particularly wide arc into a corner; scrupulously staying out of yellow boxes painted over crossroads, apparently for Highway Code reasons, but really to catch another red light.

The list of offences goes on: refusing to take bikes because of their deep-seated hatred of bicyclists; playing Radio 5 Live at offensively loud volume; refusing to pick you up, even with their yellow light on, because they don’t like the look of you or because you’re on the wrong side of the street and they’re heading home in the other direction. If you want to see how fast black cabs can really go, watch one racing home for Match of the Day.

Worst of all is the price — they are the second most expensive taxis in the world after Tokyo. The official Public Carriage Office tariff is up to £8.40 for a mile, and up to £33 for six miles, but they acknowledge those figures rise with heavy traffic or delays.

My disastrous journey last week came in at £4.67 a mile. My regular train journey from London to Pembroke costs £20 for the cheapest single, £135.50 for the most expensive — that’s from 8.3p a mile to 56p a mile. The cheapest return flight from London to Rome on BA is £115 — 1,143 miles at just over 10p a mile.

And as the fares soar, the traffic stays stationary. The average pace of central London traffic in 2012 — 8.98 mph — is the same as it was 125 years ago, when hansom cabs were ferrying Sherlock Holmes to and from 221b Baker Street.

Gone, too, is the black cab driver’s supposed reputation for safety. That went, thanks to John Worboys, the porn star and stripper turned black cabbie, convicted in 2009 of drugging and sexually assaulting 12 women.

And then there’s the plain, surly aggression of some black cab drivers. A few years ago, a cabbie in St James’s Square threatened me after he wrongly accused me of letting my parked bike fall over and hit his cab. ‘I’ve got a good eye for faces and I’ll get you,’ he barked, jabbing his finger a foot from my nose, ‘I can make you disappear.’

He was some way from being the best cab driver in St James’s Square, let alone the world. Give me a minicab driver with a satnav and rock-bottom fares any time.

Harry Mount is the author of How England Made the English.

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  • paulme

    You were charged for a 2.4 mile journey so what is your complaint? In my experience black cabs are often as cheap or cheaper than mini cabs especially for short journeys although mini cab prices seem to vary wildly. I’ve had a black cab driver steal my change, and I’ve also had one who drove me to A and E and wouldn’t take the fare. I’ve also been robbed and assaulted by mini cab drivers. You make a fair point that the knowledge is an out of date method of regulation but the cab trade certainly needs to be regulated.

    • saffrin

      The cab trade is heavily regulated. The problem lies with the couldn’t care less attitude of the public sector worker employed to enforce them.

      In Oxford for example, black cab drivers can dope-up and rape your children without fear of prosecution when the Labour party are in Government, as seen in recent events when at least one of those guys prosecuted at Oxford crown court since Labour lost the 2010 election was a licensed driver and hackney licence proprietor.

      • david olagunju

        U mean warboy? He was a London Cabbie lol and has many friends among them till date! I stay away from them.

    • chris st john

      Certainly do not agree that the knowledge is out of date as you suggest.
      Its not just about knowing all the roads of London and its surrounding suburbs, around 24,000 places of interest are also studied at great length by each cab driver. Imagine you have a London cab driver and a mini cab driver on there very first day of work, in there new jobs. You have a choice to get you to your appointment on time, who would you choose.

      • nick

        had a nice french lady get my cab near the top of campden hill rd. she said “maroosh please driver”. 1st thought was edgware rd as there are 4 maroosh’s along there so asked which one? piccadilly was the reply. that stumped me as i didn’t know one there. she said it’s just off piccadilly, it’s a womans name, starting with ‘v’ ?. i knew instantly it would be vere st, just off oxford st (not piccadilly) as there was a maroosh there.
        i can only think a mini cab would have headed to piccadilly,

        also last night a chinese man stopped me and asked for “oo’d side park”. he repeated it several times and then added finchley. got it, woodside park. i know he only left off one letter but i really didn’t know till he added finchley. a mini cab would be typing in oo’d and not getting much back

      • david olagunju

        Minicab driver, with nice, clean Merc or Jag or even BMW with Uber gadget! All day long.

        • Chris

          You are missing the most vital piece of necessary equipment any worthwhile mini cab driver must have for all those wonderful opening lines above, his trusty Sat Nav.

  • LB

    Notice that you’ve missed off the biggy.

    It’s a regulated market by the stage. 2 mot’s a year, plus all the rest. That’s all spending and costs that have to be paid by the customer.

    It’s the state that’s ramping up the prices, because the state wants it cut in any way it can.

    In reality, the black cab system should be run by the cab drivers themselves.

    • Stan

      I get black cabs all the time Iam disabled and they are fantastic , I think you owe the london taxi drivers an apology for bring drunk and sexually frustrated while writing a bull sh@t article
      Shame on you sir

  • saffrin

    Harry stop your whining. No need to spout your bile in the national press demanding law changes.

    Get on the blower to the council, they run the taxi/private hire trade with stiff rules and regulation.

    If you feel ripped off, take the cabbies badge number and present your case.

    Said cabbie will be dragged into the council offices to explain himself, if found guilty he could very well lose his cab license, at the very least, if found guilty, you’ll get your money back and a written apology.

    But then the part that reads “he wrongly accused me of letting my parked bike fall over and hit his cab” tells us all we need to know about you Harry.

    • tjamesjones

      I am guessing I’m getting into a debate with the Cabbie’s union, but surely you can see that the issue Harry is raising is a structural problem and I happen to agree with him that cabbies are running an overpriced cartel. You can leave out all the anecdotal stuff and then argue for or against cabs but no doubt they are expensive compared to minicabs, and if minicabs could collect on the street then the price of black cabs would come down because of the competition…

      • saffrin

        Councils govern prices, rules; regulations and the enforcing of vary from town to town.
        In my town for example, many City Councilors own Hackney License plates, as a result enforcement is extremely lax. Getting someone from the Taxi/Private Hire Licensing Office on the street checking for cleanliness, roadworthiness or even if drivers have Hackney/Private Hire driving licenses simply doesn’t happen.
        In the early 70’s, the then City Mayor awarded himself a Hackney License Plate before quickly ordering the no more issuing of in order to cut down on the City’s pollution.
        Very admirable you may think until you realise in Oxford at least, Hackney License plates were sold on the open market under supply and demand rules. In 1974, an Oxford City Hackney plate was sold for £10,000; in 2006 one went for £108,000 with meter prices increasing as a reflection of those costs and with the support of, you guessed it, the City’s Hackney Plate owning City Councilors.

        City pollution rules do not apply to the issuing of Private Hire plates however, are freely issued on application, have increased in number to some four hundred, prices follow those of taxis as taxi prices rise and aren’t policed anymore than the City’s taxi’s

        Harry needs argue the corruption aspect on all sides, push for enforcement of existing rules and regulations and hopefully, the rest will fall into place.

      • nick

        in order to pick up off the street the minicab driver would need to do the knowledge. we are allowed to stop on double yellow/red lines to pick up and drop off only. not to enter sat nav addresses. mini cabs operate by time delay. being booked prior to pick up so they can ‘familiarise’ themselves with the destination.
        if they were allowed to pick up off the street they would also need to drive wheelchair accessible vehicles and undergo suitable training. all this would mean is their prices would rise to fund this

        • david olagunju

          Minicabs have same accessible cabs, you guys are Hailo subscribers just like minicabs do to Uber! To many people in London, black cabs have lost their respect. I don´t see it getting better, if we still see them around in 10yrs, then there is miracle.

          • nick

            hello david.
            the addy lee galaxy’s aren’t wheelchair accessible, nor the prius, nor the bmw’s, etc etc.
            most taxi drivers don’t use hailo and none actually subscribe.
            just as you hope for our demise i would like to think that one day the use of satnavs whilst driving would become illegal.

            we can all dream

          • nick

            by law all taxis have to be wheelchair accessible. it’s not optional. so you mini cab boys would have to change most of your fleet. also hailo is used by very few cab drivers and it’s not a subscription.

          • Chris

            Certainly can’t remember the last time i saw a mini cab driver with wheelchair facility driving around London. London taxis voted the best in the world ask yourself why. You sound like a bitter mini cab driver with no get up and go.

      • dms0001

        A cartel, yet you have 75000 minicabs available to you 24 hrs a day. Cartel, i think not.

      • chris st john

        Londons largest mini cab operators are more expensive than London cabs. When was the last time you got into a mini cab with facilities to carry people with various disabilities.The wheelchair ramp fitted to all London cabs cost each driver around £2,000 supplied and fitted and have to be trained at a further cost to the cab driver of £300.
        There is a list as long as my arm about the running cost of a London cab. You have little or no knowledge of transportation, before you make a comment next time at least have an understanding on what you are talking about.

  • Nick

    I have to say I think you’re wrong on this, Harry. I agree with Saffrin that if you feel aggrieved then you should take the cabbie’s badge number (the first thing I look at when I get in a cab) and make a complaint. Many cabs now have signs in them asking you to tell the driver in advance if you would prefer a specific route. I no longer live in London but I have vivid memories of directing unlicensed minicab drivers from Brixton to a destination north of the river. I sometimes wonder if they ever found their way home again. Black cab drivers remain the best in the world and their vehicles and running costs are not cheap. I don’t know any cab drivers, by the way – of course I don’t, they all support Spurs – but I support them fiercely. And anybody who has seen the increasing number of female and/or black drivers should acknowledge that it is an industry where hard work and endless Sunday mornings on the moped really do pay off.

  • boinc

    A plane can carry 500 people. A train (with enough carriages) can carry 2000 people. A cab carries 4 at most.

    Your 56p / mile train journey should cost £280 / mile in a cab.

    • chris st john

      5 or 6 passengers actually.

    • Chris

      What a load of nonsense.

  • Robert Lordan

    Royal College Street to the area around Camden’s tube station and market is a considerable distance…why did you wait until that point to say that was not the way you wished to go?

    If you thought the driver was unsatisfactory then you should have asked why he chose that route and/or noted his number and contacted the Public Carriage Office complaints department…not use your grievance as the catalyst for a spiteful rant against an entire profession.

    I myself am a black cab driver.

    There are some 22,000 of us…. How on earth can you feel justified in making so many vicious slanders and generalisations about such a broad number?

    You refer to us as “thugs”…. That’s a little rich coming from someone who used to be a member of the far more exclusive Bullingdon Club.

    And in keeping with that, if there’s one thing the Bullingdon boys have in common then surely it is the notion of privilege? Yet according to your article, it is we humble, working cabbies who are the ones blessed with advantages.

    What would these be exactly? The privilege to drive in a bus lane so that we can pick up and drop of passengers? The privilege of being the only fully wheelchair accessible form of transport in the capital? The privilege of enjoying what you refer to as “exclusive parking spaces”…which are actually called ‘ranks’ – it’s where cab drivers wait for fares; jobs which make them a living and feed their families.

    Speaking personally, I am not ‘selective’ in who I pick up, nor are any of my colleagues I know.

    I have met people from all manner of backgrounds in my taxi; it is one of the joys of the job.

    As well as picking up Lords and bankers, I have also driven homeless people to hostels, rushed injured children to hospital and provided transport for WWII veterans on Remembrance Day (no charge in the latter cases, needless to say).

    As for your mockery of the Knowledge, since when did setting out to learn something in depth become a bad thing?

    Yes, technology today is amazing in what it can do, but it is no compensation for the human mind.

    I frequently pick up people who wish to go to numerous destinations, people who have a only a vague idea of their location, people who get the name of their destination wrong, people who want to learn about London’s history, people who want restaurant and pub recommendations, people who want to know where the nearest cash-point or toilet is.

    When you pick up a fare from the street the Knowledge ensures you are able to move off instantly- not sit tapping postcodes into a box on your dashboard whilst traffic backs up behind you.

    As for the Knowledge itself, it is not simply a case of learning 320 routes. That is merely the basis.

    I will not go into detail here, but if you wish to read a thorough account of my time on the process and what it involves, please feel free to visit my website:


    • Liz Compton

      Wow, your reply to that awful disgusting article from Mr Harry Brown was bloody fantastic and spot on – I tried to give an opinion also after reading this article but could not match your reply. Well done. I am a 73 year old mother of a black cab driver who has been struggling somewhat of late and what you say is so familiar to my ears as he raises the same issues. Thank you. Come on you cabbies put this guy in his place. Liz Compton

    • OldeJanner

      If your 22,000 are the same as the few hundred Plymouth thugs of the road, then God help us!!!!!!!!!!

  • Tony Quintus

    With the loss of the Iconic FX4 cabs (why nobody has tried to take on Geely from a shed in the midlands with a car that actually looks like a London Cab I will never know) the London cabbie has been left in a very precarious position, without real effort to maintain status and reputation they could be consigned to history.

    • Liz

      Hopefully, they will be consigned to history. Google cars…

      • Jim

        And hopefully so will your job Liz. Be Lucky.

        • Tony


          • Hmm

            Mr Mount what has become of the aristocarcy?Have we not served you well over the past few hundred years?I wonder does your father share the same views,Sir William Robert Ferdinand Mount, 3rd Baronet.It is a shame you will never present a case.Will you.

        • Liz

          It’s a dog eat dog world out there. I’m ok with that. I make my own luck

          • Hmm

            Have you really really Liz?

          • Hmm

            No it’s not .Have you heard of the common aggricultural policy?

  • Christian

    I strongly disagree that taxi drivers are homicidal to cyclists. I have found them to be amongst the most bike-aware of London’s drivers, and the most skilled at negotiating the space we share on the roads, above all they are the second most professional group in their ability to stay calm in the frustrations of traffic (second to artic drivers). I only get the view from on the bike though, and maybe I’m missing something, as I never take a cab because the bike is always better.

  • Steve maltby

    I strongly disagree, what utter rubbish, the London taxi driver is iconic in our great city and the drivers are of the highest quality that have invested time, hard work to learn all aspects of London. I suggest you may of had one bad experience and now tarring the whole great trade with the same brush. London cabbies are true ambassadors to those who visit the uk. You highlight one bad apple in the shape of john worbouys, well you need to get some facts straight; how many women are attacked and raped my mini cab drivers for a start, you totally failed to mention that. Black cab drivers are safe and vetted and hopefully here to stay for many years to come.

    Steve of Dartford

    • Pamela Maltby

      Well done Steve, a brilliant piece. I know how hard most of you work to earn a reasonable wage. Having to put up with drunks, bilkers and sometimes just plain rude people is something most people wouldn’t want to do but the majority of you drivers just get on with the job. Get a picture of this reporter and stick it in all the cabs to make sure he doesn’t get a lift again. Maybe a few trips in a private hire car would show him just how long it would take him to get home! What a twerp! Good luck to all you taxi-drivers.
      Pam – Whitstable

      • oudinot

        “Get a picture of this reporter and stick it in all the cabs to make sure he doesn’t get a lift again”

        Your words.
        And that’s exactly why most real Londoners don’t like cabbies. That’s why some people believe the stereotype that all cabbies are right wing fascists…and don’t use them unless they are drunk, tourists, or city bankers.
        And that’s why they need to evolve.

        • Chris

          A wild generalisation on a noble trade, you must really be a mini cab driver with a huge lack of knowledge on London cabs. Reading some of your posts you must get yourself in into many frustrated situations in and around London cabs.
          For your own piece of mind, stay away from mini cab forums.

        • Sean Day

          Don’t speak for me fella! I’m a ‘real’ Londoner, and ‘real’ cabbies are the best thing about this city. Everything else has been droned!

        • StanleyLad

          Oudinot. Unfortunately due to your complete false understanding And idiotic mindset your opinion of the world and groups within in it must be the same.

          All blacks within the world MUST be criminals and carry guns because must gang related crimes are caused by blacks and most of it is black in black crime. So because of your reason regarding Black Taxi Drivers in London this MUST be true.

          Everyone Muslim MUST be a terrorist because the people you’ve spoken to

    • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

      Yes great heroes and so iconic blah blah what a load of self-serving drivel. I doubt that Mount is basing this on just one experience: a journalist of his calibre wouldn’t. Never mind what we readers think: his colleagues would fault him for it, if it were plainly false.

      • nick

        “a journalist of his calibre”
        unable to cut the mustard in the legal system, much privileged mr. mount turns to scribbling cloakroom, titbit paper backs and a column in the spectator. better than work i guess

        • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

          That seems very ungenerous. I understand that his book about England is a nice achievement.

      • Steve maltby

        Read the first line of his article again and absorb it! He only lost his faith in the taxi trade last week after 15 years. As stated by many, why use a service continually for so many years if your dissatisfied with it; would you keep buying a prawn sandwich from Tescos time and time again if you didn’t like it? As for high calibre journalism, don’t make me laugh; any journalist worth his salts researches his subject. Advocating breaking motoring laws on yellow box junctions proves it all. I suggest he had a slow or no news day and could find nothing else to print.

      • chris st john

        You do talk dribble, nothing constructive about transportation.
        Fed up with listening to sudo intellects like yourself.

        • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

          I like that! ‘Sudo’. Sounds like Ludo with a twist. What are the rules?

          • Chris

            Having a the knowledge on what your talking about.

    • Flintshire Ian

      I prefer my daughter to use black cabs at night – especially when she has had a few drinks.

      • david olagunju

        Minicabs and black cabs went through the same CRB process! Same office regulates them, they both carries ID and so on. We just need a bit more education and tolerance…

        • nick

          almost the same.
          it’s impossible to obtain a correct criminal record check from many of the countries that mini cab drivers originate from.
          the ID roundels on most mini cabs are purposely obscured behind tinted windows.
          when TFL do receive a complaint about a mini cab the complaint is posted to the mini cab office to deal with where it is swiftly deposited in the bin.
          and just in case anyone fancies earning a few extra quid you can easily buy mini cabs with the roundels already on the windows via gumtree. cuts out any congestion charges and gives you something to do at the weekend

        • Chris

          No they don’t, London cabbies have a full enhanced check.
          London cabbies make a career choice as they spend years studying and a heavy investment on training and a very expensive vehicle. The one thing your right on is minicabs do need education.

          • Antwone Schimdt

            hello chris. it seems your argument is blinked and you don’t have the full knowledge as to how the minicab drivers are licenced. you are wrong in saying that their CRB check is basic as their CRB checks are enhanced like your selves. they have to do the topographical skills test in order to be licenced. as you claim the black cabs are the best in the world according to what research you base this on.
            why is when an ethnic person flags a black cab the driver drives past without stopping even though his cab light is on? why is it they refuse to go south of the river at night and they won’t stop if they deem a person is drunk? why is it they have credit card machines in their cabs with a shopping bag over it and in bold writing cash only?
            do black cab drivers offer complimentary bottled water for their customers? do they have cell phone chargers available if their customer needed to top up their cell phone? why do they keep on moaning about minicabs and go out of their way to project them as rapists and thugs? as you know there are many cases of black cab drivers been convicted for rape so don’t try to demonise your competition when you cannot provide a better service to the public. yes there are black cab drivers who would deliberately take a longer route or go into a traffic jam to enhance his income. so don’t tell me that all 22000 of you are honest upstanding citizens.
            instead of berating and portraying minicabs as bad and not safe why don’t you and your colleagues dress smart, keep a clean car, offer them bottled water and make them feel valued than just money am sure your income will improve. instead of turning up in a jogging pants and polo shirt. and for your information 3 out of 5 black cabs now have satnavs or use google maps so actually the black cab drivers are making the knowledge redundant themselves.

          • Chris

            It seems i am always having this same debate with mini cab drivers, all singing from the same hymn book. Min cab forums are awash with generalisations about London cabbies. So London cabbies spend on average 4 years of tough studies trawling London roads in rain and snow and then late into the evening calling over. If they can hold down their marriage and their full time employment whilst studying the Knowledge all well and good, but it doesn’t end there, passing an additional driving test, studying your suburbs, passing a certification for accessing disabled persons into and out of the vehicle, the list is endless. Studying the knowledge is not an easy decision to make, it is a long hard career choice. So my very first day in my cab, i have an intimate knowledge of 12 miles of London roads and 20,000 thousand of places of interest all crammed into my hippo campus. Compare that to most mini cab drivers very first day out in their car, how many Londoners are they using as guienea pigs to gather there knowledge. Please don’t be so ignorant to suggest London cabbies wearing flip flops and shorts who never go south and only deal with cash are prevalent within the trade. Their will always be an element of bad apples in any large organisation and we have many i would agree. If you work for fleets like Addison Lee who’s drivers must wear polyester suits and open doors and refresh customers with water and magazines lovely. Cab drivers do not have to seduce Londoners with gimmicks, Its not our market. I suppose gone are the days mini cab drivers arrive outside your house sitting put, finger on the horn, upsetting neighbours, the apps have arrived. If we must talk about rapes and assaults on customers you will never win that argument, there has been one recent rape by a London cab driver in over 150 years of trading, compare that to around 5 rapes and assaults by mini cab drivers and touting each week, unfortunately it is increasing as mini cab numbers increase. I fortunately don’t have a Sat Nav, but some of my colleagues do, they tend to use it for those small roads or places of interest that they don’t no or may have forgotten or changed over the years, but they are not reliant on them that is the difference. We would both agree mini cab drivers are mostly made up of a migrants workforce and i am reliable informed that even the most experience mini cab drivers are upset by the sheer numbers of new licences being awarded by TFL making life difficult for those.
            London Taxis have indeed been voted the best Taxi in the world by many different organisations globally, google and you will see. One thing i would agree on is i do hope TFL make all cabbies accept cards. I have never refused a fare in my career, and i work the Hailo app that is been around for 5 years. Hailo and Get Taxi have around 20,000 drivers all accepting credit cards.

          • Chris

            TfL is responsible for licensing 100,000 taxi and private hire drivers, 85,000 taxi and private hire vehicles and 3,000 private hire operators and is the largest licensing authority in England and Wales and is responsible for licensing over a third of all services.
            TfL’s regulation of the taxi trade is widely recognised as the best in the world. The rigorous Knowledge of London examination coupled with the Conditions of Fitness, which require every taxi to be fully accessible, mean an exceptionally high standard is required.
            In testimony to the GLA Transport Committee, Matthew Daus (President, International Association of Transportation Regulators) said: “Well, [TfL’s licensing] has been the gold standard for many, many years, and it is even now. As someone who ran the New York City taxi commission for nine years and was there for 14 years, we would often find ourselves comparing ourselves to London and I think most regulators around the country in the United States (US) as well as the world – and we represent everybody at the IATR from the Middle East to Australia – everybody finds themselves comparing themselves to the iconic black cab system.”

          • Chris

            To my above post a slight amendment. TFL should not take the credit for London Taxis being the best in the world, in fact we were handed over from the Metropolitan police who had a strict code of conduct about 14 years ago.

          • Nick Griffin

            what a load of old tosh. well done for squeezing in every stereotypical description of a 1970’s black cab driver. A+ for effort.
            see you in 28

        • Flintshire Ian

          I’m sticking to my original observation. My own experience with minicabs in London is that the driver is totally reliant on sat nav and is usually unable to speak English other than to ask for the fare. As someone else has pointed out, a CRB check is pretty useless on someone just arrived in the country.

        • Guest

          Mini cab drivers go through a standard CRB check, London Taxi Drivers have to have an “Enhanced” CRB check. they are not the same. Added to this; the process of doing the knowledge is to weed out undesirable attitudes as much as discovering if a candidate knows his way around. You cannot compare this with the rudimentary checks that private hire drivers go through.

        • Chris

          No, government need to protect London cabbies for all the obvious reasons. In India taxi drivers are murdering individuals for poaching on their territory. The one thing worse than regulation is no regulation.

  • Emmet

    I could not agree with this article more.

  • Lenny Krav-it Etheridge

    Obvious lies.
    Such a hackneyed view of a world reknowned service. Clearly you have an alternate axe to grind.

  • Paul

    An embittered biased diatribe from a cyclist, the Spectator should ensure that any article is balanced and unbiased, it’s lucky that comments/feedback can be posted to give a real life true reflection of how the public feel about black cabs.

    Next time tell the driver which way you want to go, and if you don’t like black cabs get a train, bus or a mini cab, it’s your democratic right to choose whichever mode of transport you want to use.

    • Hello

      “it’s lucky that comments/feedback can be posted to give a real life true reflection of how the public feel about black cabs.”

      I basically agree with him.

      • chris st john

        Its only a minority on this post who agree with the author.
        Most people I encounter and have a gripe about the London cabbie are mini cab drivers, occasional cyclist or non cab users with little or no knowledge of the London cabbie.

  • Tony

    Black cab drivers are privalliged eh!….you being a Bullingdon club member once.Pots and kettles comes to mind.

  • almondaxles

    What utter drivel. After thousands of rides in black cabs this article sounds like complete fiction – as if it had been made up, to be specific.

  • Kenny the cabby

    Harry the first thing that comes to mind is if you hate Taxis so much why do you use them? I actually doubt that you even made that journey as you describe because all cabbies know where Royal College St is. But let’s say it’s true, the driver clearly made a mistake as all humans do. Not the end of the world is it? You could have made it clear to him much earlier that he had gone the wrong way. I would like to hear the his side of the story.

    The grievances you list are somewhat ridiculous and I think you know that. Taking corners wider to bump up the fare? Really? Not stopping in box junctions? Why would anyone want to stop in a box junction to get fined? Do you drive?

    I have picked up all types of people from Hollywood superstars to disabled children in wheelchairs, from drunken revellers to people in need of medical emergency (no charge to A&E) as well as cyclists. Also many of us do no charge our soldiers for cab rides. You talk of exclusive rights. What rights do you mean? Do you mean picking people up from the street and dropping them off to their door safely? Or using Taxi ranks to wait for fares? Using bus lanes? 300 years ago there were no bus lanes or buses or cars or any other means of transport other than the Hansom Cab so we are part of London’s DNA.

    The Knowledge process, as well as a topographical study, is a test on our character and temperament and although sat navs have their place, they are no replacement for the human mind and with the Knowledge, we have the ability to plot alternative routes in case of road closures or accidents or traffic (which is out of our control) We are not an exclusive club – anyone can be a Cabby as long as you meet the standards set by TFL. You can not fail the Knowledge, you keep going until you pass or give up.

    The fares are set by TFL to cover the cost of running our purpose built vehicles that have to adhere to a strict set of rules and so that we can make a reasonable living. I work 6 days a week to make a reasonable living.

    You talk of the psycho John Worboys. That’s one incident in history while women are often being sexually assaulted by mini cab drivers. People trust us, in fact, once a mother left her twins in the cab while she ran an errand and on another occasion a father left his sleeping baby with me while he went to a shop. That’s the trust that people have for us which is far greater that any other Taxi service anywhere in the world. We are the best in the world and will remain to be. And, to show you that we are not all the way you describe, I would like to offer you a free ride home from Bloomsbury to Camden. By the way, Sherlock Holmes is a fictitious character.


    • Liz Compton

      Hi Kenny the Cabby – well done – put him in his place – 100% correct and I am only the mother of a cabby. All the best.

      • Kenny the cabby

        Thanks Liz. Reading his article again, I can only assume he’s lying and is somehow being supported by a very large mini cab company….

        • CiaranJGoggins

          You never know.

          • chris st john

            Statistics my arse, returned recently from a port in Spain. Talking to the cab driver who paid half a million euros for his taxi licence, consequently the fare cost more than London taxis. Check out prices in Paris if you can get one.

          • oudinot

            Yeah, that’s what happens when you have a protected trade guild, rather than a free market.

          • Guest

            We do have a free market in London; you can use a minicab, a bus, a tube, a train or even a bike. If you are too cheap to use a well trained and vetted taxi use a cheaper alternative, but don’t moan about the fact that the professional standard is there. You do not have to use it when there are so many alternatives.

          • Chris
        • david olagunju

          Mr Kenny the Cabby, why on earth will someone who spent years of learning routes and places in a very uneasy climate in London, allow himself to be placed on some account stuff by signing up to an agent called Hailo for a living? What now make black cabs unique? where is the pride of knowledge?

          • Chris

            So you are saying, preparing yourself for a sound future and studying hard is a waste of time in an uneasy climate.
            I do hope you are standing when your are talking out your arse.

          • Abandon Hope

            Because these apps have hijacked the market,everyone wants a slice of the pie,all the ticks,leeches,ponces,want a share,the apps,credit card providers etc,all want to take a %.

    • Paul Heatley

      Spot on, Kenny, spot on…

      • Kenny the cabby

        Cheers mate. I wonder if he has read any of this. My offer of a free ride for him still stands although I won’t be holding my breath. Be lucky

        • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

          He probably HAS read it and has seen a class circling its wagons, as one would expect. Personally, I’m more persuaded by the article than by the outrage following.

          • Chris

            I would very much like to know your reasons and experiences on using London black cabs, since you seem to have a point of view, but nothing else.

          • david olagunju

            Black cabs are just thugs. Most minicabs drivers are very educated, some with masters. Black cab drivers are failed guys who woke up later after failed A levels. Most appear to be very sad and unfulfilled. My brother said, one actually came out from his cab and wanted to him up lol

          • Chris

            An educated mini cab driver, that has to be the best laugh I’ve had today.

          • oudinot

            I’d love to have the power to do the research on this….but, of all your arguments, Chris…I suspect this is one you might easily be provable to lose, lol…but who knows? As a customer, I’d just like to be able to travel within London safely at a fair rate. I’m a Londoner on 50k a year, but…Black Cabs don’t do it for me- why is that?

          • Chris

            Its all about giving customers a choice you might say, fine.
            London cabbies do have a reputation for being expensive particularly to those who use London cabs infrequently.
            The fact remains London cabs at times can indeed be up to 30% cheaper on short journeys than some mini cab operators.
            London cabbies as you know study the knowledge knowing all those nook and crannies around London and the suburbs having an intimate knowledge of London streets and landmarks, driving purpose built vehicles designed for people with varying degrees of disabilities, additional training on driving and certificates for carrying passengers, all these things and a whole lot more are mandatory. can you imagine a mini cab driver with very little knowledge picking up a tourist at Heathrow and driving them through London, can’t speak English, has no knowledge of London history when asked whats that particular building on passing, getting lost. All 25,000 London cabbies are trained so well, that the very first day out in his cab he or she has the knowledge.

          • oudinot

            Yep. Very convincing argument, Chris. And yet, there are too many tales of people being dealt with rudely, being refused a ride, being ripped off to be just dismissed, surely? Do you consider there is any need to change the policy/culture of Black cabs? What needs to be changed for progress in your opinion?

          • Chris

            I have been driving for many years with no problems what so ever. Of coarse there are a few roughs out their, but let look at statistics. Over 25 rapes and assaults on women by mini cabs and touts every week and thats just the ones that report there crimes to the police, you could probably double that figure. Compare that to London taxi drivers a couple instances over 150 years or so.
            In my opinion little has to change the knowledge itself is a good way of finding out who is unacceptable to become a cab driver, its very demanding and the examiners frequently test a persons qualities.

          • Chris

            People will always generalise about bus drivers or even white van man, mini cab drivers and cabbies. Simply because they are plentiful and noticeable.

          • Chris

            Safely? Are you aware an asylum seeker who has been given his right to remain here, cannot have a CRB check as it is against his human rights. London taxi trade finds this unacceptable.

          • Moderator

            University of Life?

          • Chris
    • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

      Why does he use them? That is no riposte.

      I was asked once at a private school, where the head of something had it in for me, to consider the question ‘why am I here?’. It was so obvious why I was ‘here’ that I didn’t bother to respond. I was there because I had to pay the flipping rent. And Mount takes taxis with the same obviousness: because he needs to get home!

      • chris st john

        private school education and still no real grasp on transportation

      • chris st john

        His obvious dislike about London cabbies would itself be a reason not to use London cabs. He has stated his preference on using mini cabs with sat Navs and paying rock bottom prices.

        • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

          I don’t know many that take cabs wanting to pay top rocket prices.

          • Chris

            If you use mini cabs for short journeys in London, they are often more expensive than a London cab.

            Addison lee on account £16 from charring cross to Waterloo.

            Hailo with its fifteen thousand cabs on account £8.

          • oudinot


          • Chris

            As an educated mini cab driver, i thought you would respond a lot better than just bullshit.

    • oudinot

      Here’s a Londoner who would never think of taking a black cab, unless it was my last option. Why? Because like most real Londoners, I know it is the most fantastically expensive way to travel around London. (many cabbies are not Londoners themselves, btw…they slope off to Kent and Essex).

      • Chris

        Addison lee, Keen cars, Uber, London executive, just a few to mention all more expensive than black cabs.
        None of the above have facilities for the disabled and have no training. I could go on but its wasted on individuals like yourself.

        • oudinot

          It’s not wasted, Chris. Seriously; the more you give me reasons to value your trade, the more I might value what you do.Man to man discussion…we all want to earn a living- what do YOU think would increase EVERY CABBIES EARNINGS?

          • Chris

            Money is not the main issue for me it’s providing a first class service and being professional and enjoying what i do.
            Londoners love cabbies on the whole, they understand the tremendous lengths we go through to achieve our badge and for that we are proud.

          • oudinot

            I’m afraid that’s no longer the case, at least among the Londoners I talk to.

          • Chris

            In my experience when you have a grudge to grind about a particular subject like yours regarding cab drivers you will always find an audience that will agree with you.
            I could talk about human psychology to you, but I’m sure we both have better things to do.

      • Chris
  • Liz

    Totally agree with this article and represents what I have been feeling for quite some time. A month ago I was yelled at in passing by a cabbie while on a pedestrian crossing – probably thought I was a tourist. He sped up just as put my toe out. I always get my husband to flag them down because on a number of occasions the cabbies think this stupid Canadian tourist wants to be taken the long way home (have lived in London for 20 years). Finally, they NEVER know where I live in Hammersmith despite their wonderful Knowledge – and that’s if they can be bothered to pick me up. How many times do I get called to say there is a delay as they are “unable to locate a driver”. Yes, I do live within the 6 mile radius. I use that other big mini-cab company and they never fail to find me, on time, every time. Finally, a couple of years ago, I attended a forum with Boris Johnson, hosted by LBC. I was appalled when a group of black cab drivers rounded on the Mayor, complaining about the sexual assaults on women by mini cab drivers. The hijacking of a serious criminal offence to further their own aims, however true, was revolting. John Warboys aside, I am not aware of any initiatives by black cab drivers to deal with the issue of sexual assault. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    • Brian Ghairbhain

      You’re wrong and here’s why….

      Imran Raja ran over a vagrant in his Addison Lee minicab,with passengers on board, he then reversed over the poor soul to be sure he had killed him. I wouldn’t start setting bars of criminality and depravity with minicab scoundrels in your remit, or then we’d have to start writing lists of convicted rapists.

      Pray do tell which part of Hammersmith do cab drivers struggle to find that the collective genii of Addison Lee can. I hope it sits well on your conscience that most of these polyester suited minicab fellows work a 60 hour week to earn about £ 300 a week whilst lining Addison Lee’s pockets with 75% of the revenue they generated. That’ll be free school meals for their kids, Housing Benefit for their landlords and Tax Credits to make it that little bit more bearable. A false economy if ever there was one, all good for keeping the jobless figures down and hiding the scandalous shame of the voluminous amounts of unskilled people living on scandalously low wages. HMRC really need to investigate this self employment scam that PH firms run when in reality, their drivers can only receive jobs from them in the vehicle rented to them and I insured by them. The source of everything is the PH firm, yet they don’t offer them holiday pay, NI contributions, pensions, health benefit schemes, as by any other set up or name these drivers are employees?

      Still save that money, consolidate it into one great bung and give it to the Tories.

      Boris knows it, David Camoron knows it, cousin to the author of the original piece and all that, Bullingdon Eton mess and all that.

      As for cabbies obligations to do something about sexual assaults, where does that come from? Surely a Police and TfL licensing issue.

      • Chris

        Good post.
        A close family member works for local council and can confirm that a huge number of mini cab drivers do indeed claim various benefits.
        She is often amused when they appear in front of her and all seem to be reading from the same script.

    • nick

      not sure if you aren’t getting mini cabs and taxis a little mixed up?

      as a black cab driver i have noticed that north american tourists are full of compliments about us cabbies. often stating they’d love to take us home. in contrast i find many north americans that have made london their home are indeed quite rude about us. i’m not sure how this transformation occurs but can only think our high standards become taken for granted?

      it maybe that you live in one of the dead end roads in hammersmith? maybe not but speaking from experience i find there’s an awful lot of these i don’t know. when we are tested on the knowledge we learn roads that get us from A to B. example : half moon public house to lavender hill police station would need many roads but none being dead ends. we would only learn a dead end road if it was purposely asked by an examiner.

      regarding the forum attended by Boris Johnson, i’m afraid i wasn’t there so can’t comment on everyone’s conduct but an average of 17 sexual assaults a month involving london minicabs is a very serious issue. as you say this was brought to Johnsons attention ‘a couple of years ago’ and still yet nothing has been done to rectify it.

      lastly, i shall refrain from mentioning both the penultimate and the ultimate “Finally” you enjoy using so much

    • Alex

      The issue of sexual assaults is one that can only be highlighted by black cab drivers, they have no power to get involved other than to highlight the issue, the issue is the private hire trade and the touting/picking up off the streets that is the main issue, I know this as I know one of the females that was involved in one of these incidents, a met police office flagged down a private hire car (not legal at all) instructed the driver to take her home, 5 hours later she got home after suffering multiple assaults and having been driven all over London, it has required 3 different police forces to investigate this offence as it happened in multiple places.

      End of the day a black cabbie will have spent anything from 2 years to 5+ years learning his/her trade, only a very small minority would put that in jeopardy committing offences, whereas in private hire there is a cost to getting the licence but not many years of learning and testing they have a lot less to lose.

    • Chris

      Hi Liz
      There has to be more to your story than one London cabbie shouting at you.
      We are generally bright individuals and some of us do have telepathic powers, so when we see you standing by the kerbside waving at us, we cabbies can see indeed you are a Canadian tourist and would pass you by.
      All London cabbies know hammersmith very well, maybe not the side road you live in but all the main through ways and short cuts.
      Do you have any idea on how many rapes and assaults are committed by mini cab touts every year, it’s unacceptable, and it’s only the London cabbie who stands and shouts for your own safety.

  • teddypicker

    What a silly article. The only other time I’ve heard these comments have been from the owner of a certain minicab company. London’s Black Taxis are widely acknowledged as the best Taxi service in the World, highly trained and regulated, but it appears the only route they never, ever know is the one to Mr. Mount’s house. ‘Staying out of yellow boxes’, what do you suggest they do? Enter and risk the wrath of motorists and cyclists, plus a £120 fine? It’s no coincidence that these articles are appearing while numerous entrepreneurs are attempting to enter the market. Any old Bullingdon chums involved Henry? Maybe you should criticise the fares the new minicab companies are charging at peak times, in an unregulated market, which you seem to yearn for, you won’t have the prices set by a Licensing Board, but exploitation of passengers and drivers alike. As for John Warboys, that’s one bad apple in a couple of hundred years that slipped through the net. More Police Officers and Politicians have been convicted of rape than London Taxi Drivers. Maybe you could focus on the 25 reported sexual assaults that occur EVERY week in minicabs in London, a number the Police say is vastly under reported. London’s Taxis are not perfect, but to roll out every ‘hackneyed’ cliche and lie detracts from your article, it doesn’t enhance it. Plain for everyone to see you have a vested interest.

  • Ciaran_J_Goggins

    Being on the dole I can just about afford to use buses let alone taxis.

    • DerekGHaslam

      You should be a bent ex cop. I was paid £2K a month for perjuring in Crown Court cases.

      • Ciaran_J_Goggins

        I do not think you are an ex cop, let alone one called Derek Haslam but I believe Simon Tomlin summed you up well recently as a nasty little internet troll and serial fanatasist. Now run along and pretend to be a normal straight guy for a change and not a convicted little scrote who preys on children.

        • DerekGHaslam

          Derek Gordon Haslam, born Oct 1947. Elder brothers David and Maurice. It was sex abuse at their hands that turned a small boy into a failure at school. Left aged 15 with no qualifications. Joined Met Police and married Susan Probert in May 1970 in Sutton. His past led to a disastrous wedding night and she soon had affairs. indeed none of her 4 kids are his. After years of perjury and bribe taking he left after a mental breakdown in 1989. Hated by all his colleagues he found a place with child porn guru Sid Fillery in Norfolk. Now he is with twink Simon Tomlin a neo nazi who was discharged from the army after an “incident” with a boy.

          • Ciaran_J_Goggins

            Ha ha, best take your meds dear you know what happened last time August BH 2012.

    • Ciaran_G_Peckerhead

      Me too I use buses but I cannot walk far because of debilitating pain down my right side caused by rheumatism and drinking too much cheap plonk to try and forget my ex-financee Simon.

  • Alex

    You talk of safety and forget to mention the 17 (on average) sexual offences per month by private hire drivers in London to their passengers, lets then talk of regulation, a guy from any country in the world can come here and be a private hire drivers if our country does not share official information from the country of origin then they get through without a CRB, at least with the knowledge you are put in front of an examiner many many times and they will judge of the individual character and you won’t get your badge until they are happy you are of good character, this is not true of private hire.

    It is not in the interests of a cabbie to go the long way, they make more money with short (one in, one out journeys) than going round the houses.

    Go and have a look at the countries that have deregulated their cab trades, see if the system is any better, from what I hear they are not and much worst now.

  • Les Dalton

    Harry,you must have had a bad day in the office,how about sharing some news in the spectator about your colleagues PHONE TAPPING SCANDAL,MONEY CHANGING HANDS FOR HACKING,you should have got his number in the back of the cab and reported him online to Tfltph,I am surprised you did nt do this because you love a moan up,you have a choice,use it,and sat navs in london will take you the long way round,

  • nick

    as a black cab driver i often use the rank by leicester square. there is a min cab office next to it. i only rank there to have a little break and to watch the band of renegades operate. the mini cab drivers hang around outside the office fighting, swearing, cat calling passing women and desperately trying to bully passers by to get into there vehicles.

    John Worboys is a name that none of us cabbies will ever forget. i think we are all ashamed by his antics and have deep sympathy for his victims. however, this conviction was 5 years ago. may i suggest you google sexual assaults in london mini cabs.

  • Rillian

    Think yourself lucky. Where I live they’ve all been replaced by immigrants who don’t know their way around and can hardly speak the language.

    With a lack of criminal screening we have Its a worry to allow your teenage daughter to use one in the early hours of the night.

    ..but then, if you’re one of these metropolitan bubble idiots, you’d probably think that was great, enriching even….

    • david olagunju

      There we go! Now let me educate you on that Rillian, They were all properly checked before TFL or PCO office gave them that Licence. They went through same security and medical process like any black cab. And if someone is speaking english with accent, let us not think they are aliens. I´m sure your GP also speak like that but he/she is still looking after your family…

      • Rillian

        There used to be a knowledge test for cabbies when I was younger, they had to know the area they were working in as part of the cab test. Now they haven’t got a clue where they are going and drive you miles out of the way to run up the fares, or because the satnav told them to go that way.

        Furthermore, there is no way of checking if many people have criminal records from foreign countries. I know, I have to run them on people as part of my job. Record keeping in many countries is not what it is here.

      • Chris

        If the standards to become a London taxi driver is high and are world renowned as the very best surely thats a good thing.
        Would you let an untrained electrician into your house who has spent years to gain his experiences and knowledge. Regulation is there for the good of the populace to protect and keep people safe.
        If it was a free for all, chaos would take over, look at places like India, taxi drivers are killing each other to put food on the table.
        For your information, It’s only because of the London cabbies forcing and insisting Transport for London to bring in CRB checks in the very beginning to combat the rapes and assaults.
        Even now thousands of mini cab drivers and touts all over London every night break the law, and only the London cabbie objects to TFL on mass until you are forced to abide by the Law, unfortunately TFL takes so long to see sense, that all to often the damage is done.

  • Brian Ghairbhain

    Where do we start with this?

    15 years of bad customer service, and not one cabby knew how to get to your urban pile?

    Hesitating to enter yellow boxes, seems justified when the punitive sanction is a fine to the tune of £120. Do you advocate speeding up at pedestrian crossings and traffic lights? It might work for cyclists but not for cabbies pushing 2.5 tonnes of steel about.

    Where did your cabby u-turn in the Camden one-way system, let’s face it that’s what 20mph Camden is….so much for your knowledge of Camden. You have to judge it right or it will seem like an humungously wide route.

    I fear Sherlock Holmes may well have taken more cabs than you….another figment of someone elses imagination.

    I’d like to offer up some reasons as to why you endeavoured to do a hatchet job on London taxi drivers.

    As for the fare of £11.20, well that’s 20p more than Addison Lee’s minimum fare for cash and £2.80 less than that for card payment, although NW1 to NW5 is more likely to be around £14 for cash…

    An inquiry by the Law Commission is pending, concerning the nature of Taxi and Private Hire. It may well be that all you wish for comes to pass, or things will remain the same in London and your favourite minicab service providers will feel their £500,000 donation to the Tory party will have been in vain.

    Should minicab companies and their drivers gain the right to ply for hire as a result of legislation on the back of the LC report, then this cartel in your mind will appear to have been broken.

    If you put taximeters in minicabs and allowed them to ply for hire, the Addison Lees of this world would soon vanish and the value for money of Taxis would become manifest ,as their navigational skills would certainly make your trip more cost effective, as compared to your much preferred satnav jockeys.

    I’d like to point out that the PCO have been defunct for years, so we’ll put that down to sloppy journalism on your part. The current authority overseeing the London Taxi Trade is Tfl, delegating to TPH, who will soon be disbanded. The relationship between TPH and the London Taxi drivers is lukewarm and getting colder. The biggest gripe of London Taxi drivers is that of enforcement of the existing laws, a fairly honourable and just stance I’d say. They don’t look for favour, just competence from the authority they pay to do that self same function.
    Taxi drivers number at about 25,000 whilst Private Hire driver number at 75,000, I think the revenue raising comes more from PH, who TPH are certainly more favourable to.

    You mention that you’d prefer a minicab with a satnav anyday, over a Taxi. I read that as your interpretation of the free market economy. Ie a sub minimum wage slave, pseudo self-employed-tax-credit-boosted-otherwise-unemployable charwallah. Some poor fellow with little knowledge of his rights and less knowledge of the bare bones of the city streets of London, highly disposable, low skilled fodder from London’s transient immigrant low paid workforce.

    I think your inability to hail a Taxi is forthwith a self-fulfilling prophecy!! Be Lucky!!

  • tjamesjones

    seems like you’ve brought out the cabbie’s union harry! I think one change would do the trick – let minicabs pick up off the street. People can then choose and if the knowledge etc is worth the premium then people will pay it.

    • Joe

      A nice idea. a 24 hour city where anyone with a car could stick a ‘taxi’ light on a vehicle in any kind of state, and pick up drunk / young / vulnerable people day and night, in such numbers that it would be impossible to police / regulate. Hmm… would you encourage your children to flag down a taxi / cab if that were the case? I certainly wouldn’t, but I wouldn’t think twice about putting them in a black taxi. The problem with this article tjamesjones, is that it is absolutely flooded with false facts and inaccuracies, too many to list in fact.

      • tjamesjones

        I’m not suggesting a free for all, which I agree would be unwise, I’m suggesting that mincabs, who have been regulated since 2004(?) be allowed to collect people off the street rather than just over the phone. I don’t even know if would make the difference, though competition is a good thing. What I do know is that in the 15 years I have been in London, black cabs have only got slower and more expensive. I used to use them a lot, but now I avoid them because every trip is slow and expensive. I can’t prove that cabbies pick slow routes and I don’t even know if they do, but I do think they have an incentive to do so, at a pound a minute it’s good money.

        • nick

          we are slower than ever but this is down to many of the back routes now having no left turns out, or bollards, or cross-rail construction sites, or mini cabs not committing to a lane whilst they wait and see where there nav is gonna send them, or the new breed of large buses that also won’t stay in one lane.
          competition is a good thing but whilst TFL insist we drive our over priced, disabled accessible and over serviced vehicles then i’m afraid the playing field will never be a level one

        • chris st john

          Lots of assumptions no real facts.

          • tjamesjones

            fair enough chris, but let me tell you what I know: I am a punter, I choose how to get around London, and I have used black cabs > 100 times in my time in London. But I now, more than ever avoid them because they are too slow and too expensive. In order of preference I am now tube, drive, buses, minicabs, black cabs.

          • chris st john

            We all have choices, for me personally i can’t stand public transport crowded, dirty, smelly, slow, much rather pay a little extra to take a cab home.

        • Nick Griffin

          the meter only charges for time when the speed drops below 10.4 mph. anything above that is charged by miles. it’s in our interest to do the journey as quick as poss and get another punter in.

    • Les Dalton

      Let mini cabs pick up from the streets,some already do this illegally at night in the west end,go and have a look at swallow st,wardour st ,and then all over the city,it is a joke,also go to the satelitte cab offices in the west end and get a quote, you will s..t yourself on their prices,please try this one jmc cars in chairing x rd ,if the journey is not long enough you won t be getting in,trust me,

    • chris st john

      The vast majority of London cabs don’t belong to unions unfortunately.
      One of the reasons regulation plays an important role in every day life is to protect people like yourself who have a lack of knowledge on most topics,
      When stiffer regulation was bought about by various organisations like plumbers and electricians as an example, deaths and injury dropped dramaticly.

    • Kenny the cabby

      Mate people already choose. T

    • Chris

      That’s right no regulation.
      Would you let a unqualified engineer service your gas boiler or an electrician fix your wiring.

  • david denton

    If you want to see what a deregulated taxi market looks like go to NYC. The once proud yellow taxi brand is now a third world service. Filthy cabs driven by people who don’t know the city or speak the language.

    • The Laughing Cavalier

      New York cabs have always been like that, dirty and driven by the latest round of immigrants. As to restrictive trade, their numbers are limited strictly and a medallion costs a small fortune. Ripping off foreigners from the airport is a specialty.

  • binnsmeister

    Could not disagree more with this article, which is very different from my own experience of black cabs in London.

    I’m guessing Mr Mount does not drive, otherwise he would be slower to criticise drivers for dawdling. Cabbies are trained to drive carefully with passenger comfort and safety in mind. That means not speeding up to pass lights on amber, and not slamming the brakes on to avoid running reds.

    To blame the drivers for the rates is daft, as they are set by the Mayor’s Office and the PCO. Most cabbies did not like the big Rate 3 increase set by the then Mayor Red Ken Livingstone, as it drove business away.

    If you want to go from A to B on a particular route, then all you need to do is to tell the driver that. Ideally at the start of the journey. Pretty obvious, one would have thought.

    • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

      Oh perfect. So I actually have to INSTRUCT the driver not to rip me off, even though I may be fresh off the plane from Idaho. Terrific advice. What an idiot.

      • chris st john

        Again picking out a sentence and being over critical, rather than taking in the overhaul point the person was making. If you use a London cab you know you rarely have to instruct the driver on his route.

  • feet1979

    i picked up a group of three female Italian tourists from Liverpool street the other night. they had half a dozen large suitcases, pushchair and holdalls. after some tetris getting them and their luggage into the cab we waved ciao to their other halves who had to follow in a cab behind. on reaching our destination just off gt. dover street we were greeted by an elderly gentleman who lived in a second floor flat – i thought this poor bloke is going to end up lugging this lot upstairs because the men who were following were nowhere to be seen. so i took the cases up to the second floor – not because i wanted to get a tip (which i didn’t by the way) but because i am a very proud London Cab Driver who is representing this fine city which he was born and raised in.
    one of the ladies in broken English said i was “a good man” and that is all i try to be every day for the public and my fellow road uses and to do the right thing.
    i found your comments (if true) made me quite annoyed and that’s what made me write this post – not because i want a pat on the back or some acknowledgment but because i think you are an ar5E Harry Mount :) and will strive as i am sure will the majority of London Cab Drivers to make sure we continue to be voted the BEST IN THE WORLD.

  • http://www.soidog.org/en/about-soi-dog/ Muzeli

    Watch them coming out of their ranks at Victoria coach station, I was lucky not to have been run over by one of them, but it happened on several occasions.

    Totally agree about the drawing it out, they are prone to going past a turn if you are telling them where to go near the end of the journey.

    Make sure after a flight you have some mini cab numbers with you, airports only have black cab ranks.

    • Joe

      I assume that no other road users have ever done this to you? a minicab? a cyclist? In my mind, if you have nearly been run over by anyone, its generally because you haven’t checked the road before stepping out, unless he is travelling at light speed?

      Also – more false information, there are not only black cab ranks at airports, I believe that is only true of City Airport. There are no ranks at Luton, Stansted or Gatwick.

      People should really check their information before providing others with advice, its just following on the inaccuracy of the article of Mr Mount.

      • Alex

        The other thing missed here is Taxi drivers take another driving test before getting the badge, a lot of private hire drivers have never done a UK driving test at all.

        Heathrow and City Airports are the only ones with Taxi ranks as far as I know, so muzeli should really get his/her facts straight.

        Having seen satnav Jonny going the wrong way down Piccadilly (when it was one way) and tottenham court road it proves to me that London is not best served by satnav drivers, recently one of my friends witnessed an Addy Lee driver going round hyde park corner the wrong way.

        • http://www.soidog.org/en/about-soi-dog/ Muzeli

          Heathrow, the busiest airport and black cabs only.

          Piccadilly roads have been changed over tbe last ffew years from one way to both ways traffic. Maybe this wasn’t updated in the satnav.

          And whose satnav Jonny?

          There’s lots of bad driving in London, and if you google there’s been many accidents involving pedestrians and buses but I am sure the drivers have passed all the tests.

          • Alex

            Your original comment was “airports only have black cab ranks” glad you found the right information in the end.

            I know London very well, Piccadilly at the point where I saw the private hire going the wrong way had been one way to everything but busses for many many years, nothing to do with satnav being out of date other than most satnav get it wrong a lot of the time, go and look out in the countryside the amount of signs at the gates of farms where they say things like “your sat thinks this is a through road it is not, find an alternative route”

            Satnav jonny is the phrase I use for the guy that has no clue where he is going in London, and spends more time staring at his satnav than looking at the road in front of him, I ride a bike in town and there are plenty of satnav jonny’s they are dangerous as they do manoeuvres across many lanes of traffic suddenly.

            Private hire should do the extra driving test if they want to be taken seriously, their driving and parking is terrible in a lot of cases. Bus drivers well I rest my case.

          • Chris

            Driving a cab around London, you would be amazed how many mini cabs go the wrong way down a street.

      • http://www.soidog.org/en/about-soi-dog/ Muzeli

        I’m thinking of Heathrow, its black cab only.

        But the cabs coming out the back of Victoria like to put their foot down and they know what they’re doing.

        • Collins Mason

          The cabs coming out of the back of Victoria station are governed by traffic lights, as are pedestrians. I would suggest, if you where/are in danger of being run over by them, that you observe which colour the little green or red men on those pedestrian light are. Just in-case you don’t know, Red means don’t cross, but of course why would you (or any other pedestrian take heed of them???

          • http://www.soidog.org/en/about-soi-dog/ Muzeli

            Pedestrians have right of way if they have started to cross the road, even if they hold up a black cab for a split second you still have to give way to them.

            You should reaquaint yourself with the highway code.

          • http://www.soidog.org/en/about-soi-dog/ Muzeli

            Pedestrians have right of way if they have started to cross the road, even if they hold up a black cab for a split second you still have to give way to them.

            You should reaquaint yourself with the highway code.

          • Collins Mason

            ……if they’ve started to cross the road, quite right. But why would you cross against a pedestrian red light? Ohhh that’s right, because you don’t have to take any notice of it, if you’re arrogant & stupid! If the cabby did it, he risks conviction & a fine. As a pedestrian, you risk serious injury! Baffles me the risk some pedestrians take, especially when it’s raining for some reason? It’s only water, wet hair or serious injury? I know what I’d choose. Arrogance & ignorance, the two most valued attributes of the London pedestrian. :-(

          • Chris

            Maybe a letter to the local council, getting them to rearrange the traffic light sequence, so as to give you extra time to cross, with flashing lights and a bleeper.

        • nick

          the coach station has a rank that finishes just 10 yards shy of elizabeth st. i assume it’s the junction of elizabeth st and eccelstone place that you were crossing? even if a cab did put his foot down he could only get upto 5mph max before stopping at that junction. really struggling to understand your rant. have i got the wrong junction?

        • Chris

          Isn’t there a pedestrian crossing.

    • saffrin

      Ken Livingstone banned London cabbies from using side streets seeking direct / shortest journey routes if I remember correctly.

      Take it up with him.

    • nick

      what always amazes me about people like Muzeli………you manage to get them from one end of london to the other and then right at the end they say “next on the left”. it’s as if we arrived there by shear luck. i always laugh

    • Chris

      Scratching my head wondering why London cabbies seem to be trying to run you over on several occasions. Would it be the case that you are giving the driver road by road directions.

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    The cab drivers lobby is out in force isn’t it. I found the same when a black cab on the wrong side of the road drove head on into my lovely Alfa Romeo, almost writing it off some years ago. There were a number of witnesses.All were black cab drivers. Guess what they all said about whose fault it was.

    • saffrin

      In what town, Luton?

    • Les Dalton

      What’s this got to do with harry s rant ? How’s your alpha

    • Chris

      Your very lucky it wasn’t a mini cab, the one that drove into the back of me drove off at high speed, luckily I got his regerstration.

  • Joe

    I believe London’s Black Taxi drivers have been voted the best in the world 6 years running. Granted, there will be a few rogues in any trade, but they wouldn’t have this accolade if even half of the above article was true of the general population of taxi drivers.

  • anncalba

    O dear, how sad, how London based and irrelevant. Get on a bus, or is that too infradig for you? You do realise that 75% of the population do not live in the SE and are not likely to be to heartbroken by your sad experience, or do you?

  • dixon

    Harry Mount
    how dare you pigeon hole all London Taxi drivers with the remarks!! I could say the same about all the “media hacking a dead girls phone” and we will not even mention you far from honourable friends and family in government.

  • Ron Todd

    It is not just London. When I lived in Southampton I would frequently get a taxi from the station home. When they heard my Scottish accent they would assume I did not know the area and start by heading off on anything but the most direct rout. One time I said nothing and waited to see where he would go and ended up getting a tour that was a good ten times longer than necessary. Lucky I had time to spare that day. the usual fare in those days was between £2 and £3 I usually gave them a fiver. So that is what that driver got for the grand tour.

    • Chris

      You spend over four years studying the knowledge, the examiners test you on direct routes. Most of the people who jump into London cabs generally know we’re there going and trust us London cabbies.
      To make generalisations about London cabbies is ridiculous.

  • KarenMe

    My mum died, my uncle died, a friend died, within the space to 3 months, I am London cabbie and I made the first mistake on the road after taking a customer to St John’s Wood. What do you expect us to be PERFECT ‘MOUNT’ OK, at the end of the journey I asked the customer what he would like to pay and I discounted the fare. Problem is Mr Mount you didn’t ask the for discount and now you are slating innocent black cabbies for you lack of assertiveness !

  • KarenMe

    My mum died, my uncle died, a friend died, within the space to 3 months,
    I am London cabbie and I made the first mistake on the road after
    taking a customer to St John’s Wood. What do you expect us to be PERFECT
    ‘MOUNT’ OK, at the end of the journey I asked the customer what he
    would like to pay and I discounted the fare. Problem is Mr Mount you
    didn’t ask the for discount and now you are slating innocent black
    cabbies for you lack of assertiveness !

  • Richard

    I am currently in Hong Kong, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Yet the regulated taxi system is efficient, safe and very very cheap. It means one doesn’t have to think twice about hailing a cab for a journey, long or short. I haven’t taken a London cab in years simply due to the incredible cost of even the shortest journey. Surely the overheads and fuel cannot justify such immense fares. I dare say London would run a lot more smoothly and efficiently with this key provider of public transport being affordable to all. Some regulation is required as everyone points out to maintain standards of service and safety but this surely does not have to lead to such prohibitive fares.

    • Les Dalton

      May I ask your profession ? Also you say you don t take short journeys in a black cab,that’s your choice,there are other means of transport in london and we have all got a choice,but to buy a Cab cost£ 36,000 +interest,insurance range from £1300 to£ 2400 ,2 mots a year,passing fee£104, a lot of paying out before you earn,you must also that living in London is not cheap for anything

      • Robert

        Does Mr Mouny mean he was on the corner of RCS Street and Crowndale Road?
        Very vague details here Mr Mount.

        Strictly speaking the driver would have gone the Tfl approved route If the pick up was west of Royal College Street.
        No U turns are allowed on the knowledge exams. So therefore, perfectly legitimate by the driver in the first instance.
        This has to be because Mount ordered the driver to U turn, which can only mean pick up was on Crowndale Road.
        No ‘offence’ committed by the driver whatsoever here!!

        The descent of the piece became a scurrilous, satirical and completely misinformed and inaccurate tirade. Then ludicrously suggest drivers, drive into yellow box junctions.

        Has the Spectator turned into Viz??

    • Liz Compton

      it is available to all – and on a short journey cheaper than mini cabs – its the distance and traffic you have to pay for and the comfort of privacy instead of a smelly old mini cab being driven by someone who cannot speak english and doesn’t know the shortest route, even with a satnav. Go back to Hong Kong then – no comparison with London prices – get a life

    • Chris

      Short journeys in a black cab are more often cheaper than mini cabs, if you have used either lately, you would no this to be fact rather than fiction.

  • steve

    Cyclist ay? Let’s say no more.

  • Les Dalton

    Harry ,you seem to know enough about black cabs,then why did you not take his plate number which is on view for all the passengers to see and report him,you can do this online at tfltph,ok worboys was a one off,but your so called choice mini cabs ,in fact one from Camden,was jailed for interfering with a 12 year old on school runs,Did you report this ,also in your job,your colleagues,Phone tapping,Millie Dowler etc,So i fact their is bad apples in all jobs,also what right do you have by calling us thugs,I understand your anger on this journey,but how many cab rides have you taken where the driver has got you to your destination faster by avoiding the traffic,hope I pick you up one day an I can show you my 23 years of driving around London,get you there without moaning and without a sat nav

  • Dodgy Geezer

    I hold no particular preference for London taxi drivers – they do seem to be a very expensive way of traveling – but I don’t think this is a very well argued piece.

    Harry Mount is making a lot of accusations and innuendos based on nothing but his personal assertions of ‘stories that he’s heard’. And then he compares a short distance cab fare with the cheapest long-distance mass transport prices he can find. These are two completely different things!

    Cab drivers MAY be more expensive than necessary. They may not be. I don’t know, and this piece didn’t provide ANY proof of this. If I book a minicab driver with a satnav and rock-bottom fares, I am not going to get a reliable car or driver. If I get in a taxi I expect both of these. How much extra should I pay for this? If Mr Mount’s piece had covered this consideration it might have been worth reading.

    • Chris

      I think you would be pleasantly surprised on the cost of sitting in a London cab especially for short journeys. Last night for example I picked a couple of young women who had been to the theatre and there destination was the Marriott hotel on the Cromwell road, on dropping them off the fare was £12.80, they had paid £23 for a mini cab ordered for them at the desk of the hotel, to the same theatre and still the mini cab driver dropped them off at the wrong theatre.

      • Nick Griffin

        crikey, that’s a glory tweet these days

  • TrollBasherUK

    So you have a bad experience and then decide that it merits a whole column for you to rant against a profession that you have no knowledge about? My god, what an interesting life you must lead to sit down and churn out this bunkum. You must be really proud of yourself?

    Well I guess no London Cabbie will be picking you up from now on, Mr Mount? You’ll have to walk to your ‘Camden Flat”, won’t you? Watch out for the cracks in the pavement.

  • Robert

    Does Mr Mouny mean he was on the corner of RCS Street and Crowndale Road?
    Very vague details here Mr Mount.

    Strictly speaking the driver would have gone the Tfl approved route If the pick up was west of Royal College Street.
    No U turns are allowed on the knowledge exams. So therefore, perfectly legitimate by the driver in the first instance.
    This has to be because Mount ordered the driver to U turn, which can only mean pick up was on Crowndale Road.
    No ‘offence’ committed by the driver whatsoever here!!

    The descent of the piece became a scurrilous, satirical and completely misinformed and inaccurate tirade. Then ludicrously suggest drivers, drive into yellow box junctions.

    Has the Spectator turned into Viz??

  • nick

    i picked up an american gent last year who had some time to kill before his maida vale apartment was ready for him to move into. i ran him to do some errands and then dropped him off so he could get his hair cut. he paid me up and asked if he could leave his 3 big cases with me then collect him in an hours time. picked him up on time and asked him “would you have left your cases in a cab anywhere else in the world”

    • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

      I think he was nuts to ask anybody!

      • nick

        i agree but i have found such levels of trust many times. i still find it a little weird to be regarded as trusted stranger due to the vehicle i drive. nice but weird.

  • nick

    “The exclusive privileges given to black cabs must go”

    would these privileges include having to drive an overpriced vehicle? a vehicle that (unlike mini cabs) must be accessible for the disabled? have an expensive steering configuration? be tested twice a year and plated? have plexi-glass between the front and rear compartments?

    i assume the privilege you have in mind is being able to drive in the bus lanes? it’s actually the customers privilege. it makes no difference to my day whether i’m in a bus lane or not.

  • Paul Heatley

    Harry, dear oh dear, I don’t really know where to start….
    Your piece in the Spectator regarding London Cab Drivers is preposterous!

    Firstly, you title it, ” The case against London Cabbies”… mmm… That implies that you have constructed a legitimate, truthful, accurate picture of how the average London Cab Driver treats his or her customer. I think that your article, ( I use that word loosely), is not only inaccurate but it is slanted to the point of suspicion, as if you have an agenda.

    I would not endeavour to defend all London Cab Drivers, I am only responsible for myself and I strive to give my customers the best experience possible, I always double check the route with the customer if there are several routes which can be taken.

    Some of what you say is complete rubbish and you make yourself sound foolish, for example:
    You say that Cab drivers slow down on approaching a green light, in your opinion this is to try to catch the red light. That is ridiculous. Any decent professional driver will approach a green light with caution so that if the lights do change to red at the last minute, we do not have to slam the brakes on, catapulting the passenger from their seat or running through the red light, breaking the law.

    You claim that London Cab drivers slow down at zebra crossings in the hope that a pedestrian will come along… This statement is ridiculous, laughable, did you actually engage your brain before writing this article. I cannot believe that you would’ve been paid ANYTHING for writing such drivel! I slow down approaching zebra crossings as do many other Cab drivers so that I am in a position to stop in time should a pedestrian cross at the last minute. Pedestrians have a habit of not looking and just walking across. I have lost count of the many cyclists that think it is ok to ride along the road then suddenly turn 90 degrees and ride their bikes across the zebra crossing forcing me to brake suddenly.

    You claim that we scrupulously stay out of yellow boxes painted over crossroads, apparently for Highway Code reasons but really to catch another red light. I realise that a proportion of cyclists take no notice of the law but as Cab drivers we have to. A large proportion of yellow box junctions have Cameras on them and we get heavily fined if we enter them and get stuck. It is the law after all but it seems you you like to make it up as you go along…

    You do love to generalise , saying, ” If you want to see how fast black Cabs can really go, just watch one racing home for Match of the Day”. I have no interest in football but I do stick to the speed limit and drive safely and I cannot abide or tolerate people who want me to break the law by driving faster than is safe, (over the speed limit) or necessary.

    You claim, too, that the safety aspect of travelling in a Black Cab is gone due to ONE unsavoury individual. It always has been and continues to be the case that many “educated” people are happy to send their children in a Black Cab to School in the morning. For you to say that our safety reputation has gone is ludicrous.

    You claim that Knowledge examiners carrying out one on one oral exams with prospective Cabbies have a hugely subjective role in choosing who makes the grade. Are you insinuating that the Knowledge examiners are in some way biased?

    If you had took the time to do some proper research you would have found that we know have London Cab drivers of both sexes and lots of different nationalities and each of those people have put “blood sweat and tears” into competing the Knowledge as I myself did 22 years ago. I can assure you that any subjectivity by the examiners is there to protect the public not to give a Knowledge candidate any unfair advantage.

    You claim that Kabbee is a great app, all I can say is I have seen some of their journey lines, we are taught the straightest way from A to B and with experience we learn the fastest way at any time of the day. You may well have had a bad experience and if you did that is unfortunate but it is not indicative of the whole of London’s Cab drivers as you well know.

    Uber operate a price surging policy, not like our 1,2,3 tariffs but more severe and there are constant retweets of people’s complaints about that.

    We have no cartel, no monopoly, anybody can do the knowledge, black, white, man or woman as long as they are prepared to put the effort in to complete the Knowledge, yes black Cabs are not cheap but like anything in life you get what you pay for. I value all my customers and appreciate their custom as do most Cab drivers.

    As I said at the beginning, it’s as if you have an anti black Cab agenda. You come across as if you have a huge chip on your shoulder and that’s quite sad.

    I am a regular reader of the Telegraph amongst other newspapers but now that I know that you are connected I will boycott that paper. It pains me to say it but I suggest that if you have such a low opinion of London’s Cab drivers, ( who consistently poll the best Cab drivers in the world), you stick to either your bike or mini cab.

    Regards-Paul Heatley

    • Chris

      Very we’ll said and documented

  • Collins Mason

    Dear Mr Mount,

    After reading your rather tainted, misinformed & to be honest, scathing attack on London’s cabbies. Plus some of the comments thereafter, I think that there are a few issues that need addressing & putting straight, not least the issue of minicabs picking up off the street.

    The knowledge of London (The “K” as it’s known to cabbies), training & examination process to become a Licensed London taxi driver currently takes a candidate (of any colour, creed or religion), between 3 & 4 years to complete. The test is carried out by TFL examiners (The Public Carriage Office or PCO, was disbanded years ago! Lazy journalism?), most of which are themselves cabbies and/or ex police officers who have completed the test themselves.

    What a lot if people don’t know (even most cabbies forget this too), is that the “K” not only requires the candidates to have an extensive knowledge of London’s streets & places of interest, but also a large proportion of it, is a test of the would-be cabbies character. Examiners will (during the process), try & trip the candidate up, mark them wrong, when they know they are right, study their reactions physiologically to these and other forced situations. The result is that not only do London cabbies gain an intricate knowledge of Central London’s roads & places of interest, but they are the most trustworthy, cabbies of good character in the world. A fact that has them voted as “the best taxi service in the World” for the last 6 years running, by a country mile. (Voted by users surveyed by http://www.hotels.com.)
    This is the reason the drop-out rate by candidates is around 80% & only those with “good character” reach the required high standards to drive one of London’s iconic Black cabs. This is on top of the most stringent Criminal Records checks (same as a would-be teacher), and another driving test, even though they already hold a full UK driving licence. This is the reason that many of London’s residents will entrust a cabbie with (and I’ve had all of these situations myself), their offspring on the school run un-chaperoned, why they will entrust cabbies with the keys to their house, important documents, money, laptops, all unaccompanied with the instructions “Take these/this to “insert address” would you? Here’s some money.” And I can categorically say that I have never heard a single complaint where any of the above would have gone missing.

    The reason for informing you of the above is two-fold;
    When a passenger hails a cab in the street, he/she expects that cab to move off almost instantly in the direction of the destination and on reaching that destination, you have done so in complete safety. This can only be done by a cab driver with an intricate knowledge of London’s streets & its places of interest & a complete & stringent check of their background & character. An untrained minicab driver with limited use of the English language & virtually no knowledge of London, won’t be able to do this. It’s impossible, PERIOD!

    Secondly, is traceability. The reason a minicab has to be pre-booked is not only that the untrained driver has to plan your journey in advance (put the postcodes in his/her sat-nav), but also (& more importantly), that the journey has to be recorded for your (or whoever or whatever you put in that minicab), SAFETY! Minicab drivers do not have the same Criminal Records or character checks as taxi drivers & the main reason for that is that they are mostly (96% according to TFL figures), from our immigrant population & cannot be checked in their country of origin. Hence the uncovering of at least one (although the journalist believes it to be rife amongst the minicab drivers), Taliban fighter driving a minicab in East London to raise money for the cause & allow him to “pop back” to Afghanistan every now & again to kill a few soldiers. If you don’t believe me, simply google it. It was in a national newspaper.

    So before a minicab can pick up off the street in maybe your “idea of utopia”, you should ask one of the 17 people (on average according to official TFL figures), who have been the victims of serious sexual assault, including rape, committed by MINICAB DRIVERS each MONTH… If that would be ok?

    So you see it takes a lot time, effort, personal & financial commitment, plus examinations (a lot of examinations!), to become a Licensed London taxi driver. That’s why becoming one is a career option rather than an “in-between job”, in-between fighting for the Taliban it would seem for your average minicab driver.

    To become a minicab driver, just fill in the form & give TFL £300….

    …and to become a journalist?? Well let’s face it, any 5 year old can write a bad “story!” Mr Mount…. Or is that just me being misinformed or spiteful because of a few bad experiences with people who have the morality of a 2 bob prostitute? (Phone hacking scandal springs to mind!)

    As for pricing, you generally only get what you pay for in this world. I would suggest Mr Mount, that you stick to your beloved minicabs. I’m sure Mr Griffin (founder of Addison Lee), would expect no less after his generous donations to your buddies in the Conservative party. I’m sure you’ll get home safely……most of the time?
    Plus of course, after writing this article, the chances of you actually being able to get a taxi to stop for you, will be difficult at best. Just ask your colleagues Richard Littlejohn or Jean Rook.

  • scampy1

    Is there a city in the world where these bastards do not take the longest route?

    • nick

      it’s called london

    • Jim

      “These Bastards”
      My my scampy, you sound as sexually frustrated as Mr Mount. Pmsl

    • Chris

      That’s why London has been voted the best taxis in the world.

  • lojolondon

    Harry, you need to change your attitude – Black Cab drivers are always professional when I deal with them, perhaps you antagonise them?

  • grammarschoolman

    What about the case against Bob Crowe? Rather more pressing, I should have thought.

  • KarenMe

    A doctor makes a mistake and a patient dies. Does that mean that ALL doctors are incompetent and an article must be placed in the paper that encourages the public NOT to visit a doctor ?

    That’s basically what this article is saying about ALL cabbies.

    Perhaps an apology to the cabbies you have offended with this article is something
    that needs to be published in the next issue ?

  • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

    From what you say, Harry, it’s not just a trade. It’s a guild.

    • nick

      hello swanky. i can take fair criticism and will always hold my hands up when i’m to blame. however the article seems to have a more sinister agenda. knowing camden rather well i find it topographically inaccurate and harry’s maths obviously aren’t his strong point. to drag out our only only sexual preditor, john whorboys convicted five (yes five) years ago in piece about a cabbie taking the wrong route is quite frankly bizarre. not one cabbie on here has mentioned harry’s incentive for writing such drivel. though hard to prove we all know the reason why.

      you are right about it being a guild. though for me it’s more about cleaning the cab and getting out to earn a few quid than dressing up in fancy robes and being a silly ass. that later was more mr mounts thing during his early years

      • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

        Hi Nick, thanks for the reply, and your post above was also interesting. I don’t however have any clue what you’re talking about in your first paragraph here. Five years is hardly a lifetime ago — and certainly not from the victims’ point of view. Your last two sentences will have to be spelled out, I’m afraid.

        • nick

          sorry swanky, there were so many inaccuracies is harry’s column that i glossed over most.

          1/ camden market is on a one way rd (camden high st). it would be impossible to do a u-turn on this road. the only option would be using buck street or castlehaven road but neither would give access to Royal college st. there are two main routes from bloomsbury to harry’s flat and if he is used to cabbies taking the route he doesn’t like then perhaps mentioning at the start of the journey wouldn’t go a miss.

          2/ “The official Public Carriage Office tariff is up to £8.40 for a mile, and up to £33 for six miles”

          this is the 3rd time harry has referred to the Public Carriage Office which TFL took over from quite some time ago. TFL’s price guide is from £5.60 – £9.00 for a mile and from £23 – £33 for 6 miles. Fares and journey times may be higher if there are delays or heavy traffic.
          i’m quite sure that if our star journalist was to book either a train or a plane to pick him up then drop him at a specific location, whilst not sharing the pleasure with any other commuters, he may just find slightly less impressive. however we don’t charge for extra people

          3/ this actually felt wrong by glossing over such an awful part of our history but time was against me when typing. John Worboys. an evil man that changed too many people’s lives for ever. we are all ashamed that he was ever in such a trusted position. only last week i threw out a group of ‘hooray henry’ types that thought it joke. we will have to live with the harm he’s done to our trade which is nothing compared to his victims. however mr. mount deemed it worthy of adding to his current article in which he names and praises mini cab firms. google sexual assaults in london mini cabs to see the volume of assaults happening right now. that was his cheapest shot imo

          4/ i won’t speak about harry’s true agenda on here

          5/ regarding the taxi drivers guild. i have no idea who belongs to it or what they do in there. i just always imagine such places as people wearing silly hats, drinking far too much and well, just being plain silly. i became a cabby to earn an honest living. nothing more

          hope this helps. i’m not a big typer but felt too incensed to let this attack go.

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            You’ve just made me more curious about ‘Harry’s true agenda’.

          • nick

            it’s shaping up to be a novel ‘the curious agenda of harry the count’
            as you can see my spelling and grammar is far from adequate. so best i leave it to others
            sorry i couldn’t sway you swanky

          • Chris

            We’ll said nick.

    • Chris

      Rather than listening to Harry and agreeing, try finding out for yourself.

      • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

        Fine, Chris. I’m just a reader and predisposed to thinking that Harry’s a good chap. It goes no deeper than that. I keep forgetting about this blog and people keep reminding me of it.

        • Chris

          Harry we’ll indeed maybe someone you look up to, but to write a inaccurate and somewhat biased personnel assessment of London black cabs for you to agree with and without stating your own personnel experiences of London cabbies, seems to me idiotic.
          I suggest you look back at some of your posts and take a reminder of what you have said.

    • http://comcabs.co.uk/ LeonieKester

      A low cost cab service at Euro cars in Fulham has the Cheap Minicabs in London package that we have for you in store. There is more imminent advantage we can provide to you.

  • Fiji’s Best

    Since each of us has unique intellect, talents, and experience, the only way to make us all equal is to treat each of us unequally.

  • rteather

    One annoying habit of black cabs that the article missed – many of them seem unaware that their vehicles are fitted with indicators.

    I have often in London been nearly hit while I have been crossing a side street, by a black cab turning into it off the main road without indicating. Oddly a bad habit that they share with cyclists, who also seem incapable of indicating.

    Sometimes it is clear why the black cabs do not indicate – they are talking on a mobile phone so do not have a spare hand. But often they do not even have that excuse.

    • nick

      i have been guilty of this. most of us have hands free phone devices so can talk legally whilst driving though i prefer not to at work. the lack of signalling is due to us driving around looking for work. when approaching side roads we make a decision whether there is more chance (visible potential customers) of a job in front of us or in that side road. there are other factors. approaching a side road we maybe behind another empty cab and decide “if he carries straight on then i’ll turn off”. no point following a cab with his light on. i do try to signal as often as i can but sometimes there just isn’t time. though i would always give way to pedestrians as i’m sure most would.

      when i first got my badge i found it very tiring have to watch for empty cabs, possible jobs, cyclists, kamikaze pedestrians, motor bikes etc. but we do settle into it and i’m sure we must be some of the most observant road users out there.

    • Chris

      I suppose 25000 black cabs working London would be more noticeable than any other form of vehicles so your chances of seeing bad driving is increased, but the truth is all road uses abuse the Highway Code.
      My own personnel experiences of London black cabs is most of them are the most aware of what is around them as they drive through the 32 boroughs of London. Mini cab drivers have to be the largest offenders in my opinion just because of there sheer numbers and the very nature of there work. Mini cab drivers fixed prices means they speed around the small streets of London trying to be on time or deliver passengers and are unfamiliar with roads outside there particular borough.
      Not sure on your agenda, why it seems in your own words, “often nearly been hit”. I was once accused of not indicating once by a pedestrian, I was in a left turn filter lane, indicators not legally necessary. Haven’t seen to many cabbies these days without Bluetooth devices.
      But I must say most cabbies are so in tune with there surroundings they could or do eat a full English breakfast whilst reading the local paper and discussing politics with a full compartment of passengers.

  • Flintshire Ian

    Our black cab ride from a very good Italian restaurant on Bermondsey Street back to the Fleet Street Premier Inn on the night of 25th January was comfortable, quick – and cheaper than the Kabbee minicab that failed turn up because the web site booker had made a mistake with the time. From the outbound journey earlier that evening (and the observations of my daughter, who lives and works in London) it is clear that many mini cab drivers are totally dependent on Satnav and don’t speak much or indeed any English. The following day we hailed a black cab on the Farringdon Road for the short journey to the NCP just off Upper Thames Street, where my car had spent the weekend. Probably not the best fare of the Cabbie’s day – but accepted with good grace and he dropped off as close as he could. Black Cabs are much better than the mini cans in my view.

  • Blazenka Hudson-trograncic

    As someone who lived at a well used ‘knowledge’ route terminal I always had great service but it was always expensive for us non-Bullers.

  • whs1954

    Clearly the cab drivers union has put all the brothers onto this. Hint for you all, “Wah wah, you were in the Bullingdon Club Harry” does not constitute a rebuttal.

    Why is it, I wonder, why people who drive public transport are the most obnoxious and arrogant about it, while picking up pay I can only dream of? Just look at Bob Crow and his bunch of martyrs, striking for an increase on their meagre £40k a year and free Tube travel.

    • nick

      as a cab driver who doesn’t belong to a union i completely agree with your comments about bob crow and his martyrs. however i find the most obnoxious and arrogant people in my cab are usually sitting behind me.

    • Chris

      Obnoxious and arrogant, I’m assuming you know how to drive a train, and have a wealth of exsperiance in transportation.

  • Raw England

    Is there any White Taxi Drivers left in immigrant majority London?

    • chris st john

      Looks like they have all been pushed out by the english so called language schools up and down the country run by bent individuals cashing in on people wanting to work and pretending to be students. Cost you about £3,000 pounds and then benefits for life after a few years.

  • CiaranJGoggins

    If I could afford to hire taxis I would always use a black cab in London as opposed to
    a minicab that could be driven by an uninsured rapist or taliban sleeper.

    • Chris

      The London cabbie in most cases are cheaper in and around London than mini cabs, the over exaggerated prices are often commented by individuals with hidden agendas.

  • citygirlnomore

    Considering one of my friends got driven to a cashpoint and then raped by a minicab driver after a night out, whilst the rest of us luckily got driven safely home in black ‘licensed’ cabs, getting a black cab has always been a no-brainer to me. I would never recommend anybody use these unlicensed minicabs – far too many horror stories. If they are running up miles and taking the ‘long route’ (which some do), complain!

  • Luke Merriman

    Well that was a rather uninformed article if ever I saw one. Or is it? Seems to me that this is a writer who wants to ruffle feathers and get noticed and has struck upon the idea of attacking a trade that he knows divides opinion.

    The notion that a taxi driver is gaining money by taking a wide arc into a corner is laughable. And motorists are required by law to stay out of yellow box junctions or risk a heavy fine, yet the author states that taxi drivers do this to catch another red light and add 20p to the meter!

    There could have been good points made against the taxi trade in this article, but instead the author has gone down the route of making up nonsense and shown himself to be very much a second rate writer.

    Give me AA Gill any day of the week.

  • Rick Goondall

    Very well as noted by Robert Lordan.
    If there is a personal problem with a driver, you have the PCO (PUBLIC CARRIAGE OFFICE) to report to as you have the NYC TLC (NEW YORK CITY TAXI & LIMOUSINE COMMISSION) in New York.
    I find that many TAXI BASHING articles are concocted & are circulated on behalf of well funded venture capitalists who are providing taxi cab services disguised as Limo services. UBER even goes above and beyond the way on writing their own reviews.
    Taxi Bashing has become the front for these illegal mobile app taxis- disguised as private drivers and limos. These cars are not legal taxis- but yet are offering silent E-HAILS.

  • Rick Goondall

    Can this article be concocted to legitimize those illegal mini cab mobile apps such as Uber? Like Robert Lordan said, ” there is the Public Carriage office for complaints”.
    This article is just very questionable.

  • Rick Goondall

    Writer can write so much bad stuff- but London cabs will always be highly liked and cannot be replaced with these illegal MINI CABS who operate behind the mobile apps.
    This is why people come to NEW YORK, request my London Cabs for weddings and events- LONDON CABS are and always be liked.

  • Paul the cabbie

    I must say the thugs of the roads Are the buses or the women who go on school runs in there range rovers, you obviously had just a bad experience you can’t tar with the same brush every single taxi on the road! I have made mistakes no doubt you also have made mistakes?
    At the end of the day it’s your own decision to use another mode of transport, but what happens when the mini cab takes you the wrong way because he lost his train of thought for a moment? Will you then proceed to write a column about them?or maybe a column regarding the pathetic ness of some people’s articles? Or maybe you could write about your local shop when they run out little toys because you have thrown them all out of your pram!
    Next time it’s raining and you can’t get a minicab or a driver maybe you should walk because by the sound of it, you could do with it!!!!

  • david olagunju

    Harry Mount, I love your acts sir. That`s just fact!

  • Anna Anna

    I used both Addison Lee and Black cabs at some point and black cab jorney prices were always less in Central London because Add Lee has a fixed price of £19.40 for a 10 min journey.

  • oudinot

    As in most things in life, follow the money. Black cabs have no place in the lives of 95% of real Londoners. They are relying on tourism, basically. Good luck to them; but why they should still expect protectionism at the expense of people who live and work in London is beyond me.
    A dying trade because it has refused to evolve.

    • nick

      odd. i would say that 95% of our work is carrying londoners to and fro. i drop at more residential address’s than hotels. go figure

      • oudinot

        Wow…you must work mostly late evenings then, I guess. Delivering happily to Kentish Town, but not to Crystal Palace. (why is that?).

        • nick

          morning mate. yep i work the graveyard shift. last job this morning was caterham surrey. the day before was epping. i’ve never turned down a crystal palace. i still sometimes do days and even then it’s mostly places of business or homes.

          1625 saw the 1st hackney carriages on the streets of london and in 1865 the ‘knowledge’ of london began. the knowledge is open to all and does not discriminate. anyone can be a cab driver and anyone can be a minicab driver. many chose the later as they can start earning immediately without committing time and money for a qualification. i wanted a career so chose to be a cab driver. it is now common place to ridicule the knowledge as a qualification, dismissing the history and think of the cab trade as a cartel.

          a cartel that anyone can join. we don’t want protectionism. we want tfl to do their job and enforce the law of the land.

        • Chris

          Thats assuming he lives north of the river, what if he actually lives south of the river. Did you know the knowledge extends beyond crystal Palace.

    • Chris

      You keep putting your foot in it.
      Let me give you some facts, Tourist believe it or not make up about 5% of my work, the rest are Londoners going about there every days lives, working and socialising. you have this ridiculous blinkered view of London cabbies, you should really see a councillor and start taking the pills again.

  • Sushma Gupta

    Great post. I just want to say that if you don’t like taxis, then why do you travel in taxis. Avoid them, and use another medium of transportation.


  • Moe Blotz

    On a trip to UK about twenty years ago, my mate and I found ourselves on a London street Saturday morning. We were walkinig to most of our destiantions, but wanted to visit a pub in Sloan Square that had been recommended. We did not know if the tubes ran there or how far we were, so I asked a black cab driver who was sitting in his cab reading a newspaper how to get there. “Coupla blocks that way,” he said and gestured in the direction we were walking. Not far, so we hoofed it. When we did not reach Sloan Square in a “coupla blocks”, we stopped and asked another cabbie. Same response. Eventually we found our destination, but it was a couple miles and a coupla blocks. Had we known how far we had to go, we would have hired the cab paid the fare. Cabbies do not give directions in London.

    • Ted Cunterblast

      Fox & Hounds?

  • sonali joshi


    Great post thanks for info!

    Taxi from Heathrow

  • Kaine

    How about we start with the ‘archaic privileges’ of the City of London and go from there? That seems a greater anachronism than the PCO.

  • LucieCabrol

    I think we can all see the value of specialists who know the routes, traffic densities and flows of the capital which a satellite guide does not give you.
    However there must be a middle course because black cabs do not cover acres of london…especially when you are not right in the middle or on busy routes…i feel as if a deal or compromise solution can be reached…I also feel that black cabbie’s are quite expensive…a little give both ways please then we all progress

  • http://www.anarcho-capitalist.org Oliver Westcott

    i haven’t used a hackney carriage since i was employed in the City. pompous mode of transportation. champagne socialists use them and deserve to get ripped off.

  • Jonathan Leibowitz

    Since our minds cannot anticipate their own advance, we must maintain leeway for learning the unforeseeable lessons of future experiences.

  • AndIWasNeverHere

    A perfect blog to indicate why Black Cabs are panicking about the introduction of Uber into their marketplace. Could a bit of decent competition might shake up their standards a bit?

    Simon Dell

  • bfreesun

    I don’t use black cabs in London or taxis from Nice airport to my home in the south of France not because I can’t afford them but because they are both a total rip off. The cost of a cab to Gatwick or from Nice is almost always more than the cost of the flight between thesiorts. The knowledge is obsolete and unnecessary with the advent of sat nav and I usually know the way better than a black cab driver in the few and far between times when I have no option but to use them. Time for reform in France and in London

  • Susan Dizon

    I was on important business in London when we were picked up by a London Cab driver from Com Cab (City Fleet).

    He took us from 2 Bridge Road to Soho – and it took us 1 hour and 15 minutes in light traffic

    He took us to the London Eye

    filed a complaint with both City Fleet and with the government’s TPH.
    City Fleet promised an investigation, but never responded after 30 days.
    I then filed with TPH and they said it was more than 28 days and then TPH chided me by replying:

    “I would
    further point out that it would not be reasonable to expect in the
    course of an investigation a Taxi driver who normally deals with several
    customers each day, to recall an incident older that 28 days, and this
    would not afford him a fair opportunity to account for an incident
    during the course of an investigation against him.

    I must finally
    point out that, notwithstanding any advertisement displayed in the
    inside or outside of the taxi, clear advice on how and where to complain
    (also attached) is displayed in the passenger compartment of all

    I did file the complaint through my hotel, but it went to
    City Fleet not TPH. City Fleet never got back. You would think TPH
    would understand this

    The taxi driver’s ID is: 48162

    If anyone can help me in London, please let me know. Email me at casting90404 at yahoo dot com.

    Thank you so much. We brought in over a million dollars in business in the UK.

    God bless,

  • Abandon Hope

    So blatantly obvious where he’s coming from,hope UBer give you plenty of free/discounted rides,mug.

  • Steve Jacobs

    I like to get more details about this case..
    Heathrow airport transfers

  • Rachel

    Have an experience with a MiniCab whilst visiting in Wolverhampton – never had such an experience anywhere – and I have been all over.

    Take a look – MiniCab Driver : Richard399

    Now why can’t all MiniCabs and Taxis bee like this guy?

  • Phil

    What utter bollocks.

  • Phil

    Why don’t you try doing the knowledge yourself? You’ll be a better cab driver than you are a journalist. And you’ll probably need a new job after writing this load of nonsense.

  • Adam Levine

    I have preferred London airport cab while moving to my home from airport…

  • ilang

    A very uniformed post by Harry Mount.

    It begs to ask ..are all of his journalistic reports so inaccurate?..

  • Gabriele Stellati

    You should know that minicab drivers, working for all the London Companies, are paid below the minimal wage, they are self-employed but to work they have to do shifts like employed people, only without the benefits to be employed. To earn a decent wage they have to drive a minimum of 60 hours per week and still their wages are just about the minimal wage if they’re lucky. They drive more aggressively than a black cab but is it a good thing? I don’t think so. You probably would like a society where everybody is paid very low rates so you can have your extras for a cheap price. When you buy your clothes in Primark they are very cheap but do you ask yourself what’s behind the low price? Saying the things you say in this article makes me think you are or very shallow, or very arrogant, or you’ve tried the knowledge and you didn’t manage to score a single C…By the way I’m a minicab driver on the Knowledge so if you want to know anything about this industry let me know, because, my friend, you’re talking by stereotypes.

  • talk2

    This is so bias!, I’m doing the knowledge and only at the end of my first run but I know Royal College Street and Camden pretty well – could have been a genuine mistake. BUT, your other option would be a minicab driver who has less DBS checks and who may have just arrived in the country recently and you know nothing about his or hers background and at 11:30 pm at night alone in a minicab with someone you cannot be sure about! Black cabs are super regulated and super safe and have an excellent knowledge pf London and don’t forget that traffic jams can happen in an instant (accident/broken down vehicle etc) and no sat nav is that quick! oh, black cabs pay full tax in this country unlike Uber, Addison Less and all the others who have offshore accounts. get them to pay TAX in this country, then their prices will have to go up! besides, in a couple of years time when all those Uber mercs become old and their owner drivers don’t have enough money to replace them, we shall see what happens. Finally, Uber, Addison Lee and all the others are funnelling all the money from taxi’s to a privileged few (Goldman Sachs and Google and others) as is with everything else. No normal hard working person is allowed to make a decent living anymore, certainly not Uber drivers and even middle class England is feeling it with all organisations tightening normal working people for the privilege of the few parasites, a true disaster for all of us. I won’t even mention Amazon and what they have done to the British High Street. Not progress but theft because they are not playing on an even field! goodbye.

  • Marcus Dixon

    Informative blog for me. Keep sharing.

  • JamesTennant

    Black cabs produce a vast amount of pollution: http://www.mayorwatch.co.uk/black-cabs-and-pollution/. That is TfL’s fault, it has responsibility for the procurement of black cabs. Yet their trade body & its members have done little, if anything, to seek change as far as I can tell.

    In my experience many of them think they own the place and are constantly aggressive to cyclists. I agree wholeheartedly with the author.

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