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I was a Knowledge of London examiner - AMA

(21 Posts)
HarshingMyMellow Sun 12-Aug-18 01:41:41

I worked for many years under TFL as an examiner for hopeful black taxi drivers, doing the knowledge.


MardyBra Sun 12-Aug-18 10:25:04

Are people still doing the knowledge? Won’t satnav take over.

SockQueen Tue 14-Aug-18 21:17:43

Do you have the knowledge? Or did you get crib sheets?

rosiejaune Wed 15-Aug-18 17:28:00

My dad was a London cabbie for a while. He drove the Beatles' manager once, and some gold from the Bank of England on a couple of occasions (they used to just hail a passing taxi at random times, for security reasons).

I don't suppose you were examining back when he would have taken it, in the late 60s/early 70s?

How do they update their knowledge of streets, as presumably things change pretty often in such a big city? And exactly what area does it cover?

doodlejump1980 Wed 15-Aug-18 17:28:40

Do you think Hayley and Kat will pass?

Mightybanhammer Wed 15-Aug-18 17:51:21

rosiejaune Nice story re the gold but not true. An elegant leg pull!

rosiejaune Wed 15-Aug-18 18:01:50

@Mightybanhammer I'm not talking about large amounts as a regular system; I know that went by truck and train. I think it was for private business transactions by their commercial customers.

MeetOnTheLedge Wed 15-Aug-18 18:04:43

What was the pass rate? Could a driver keep re-taking it till they passed?

JustHereForThePooStories Wed 15-Aug-18 18:12:34

Oooh, what an interesting job!

Why is the assessment so formal? I know assessors are addressed as Ms/Mr/etc and I think the applicants are too?

Mightybanhammer Wed 15-Aug-18 18:37:50

rosie- you mean some erstwhile ( private accounts no longer serviced) eccentric private customer ( not commercial - the bank's commercial customers are other banks and the government) who insisted on departing the Bank in a taxi with half a dozen ingots in their handbag / briefcase then? And displayed same to their driver as they accelerated away from Thread St?

HarshingMyMellow Wed 15-Aug-18 18:48:16

Oh wow loads of questions!

@MardyBra - there are still thousands of applications every single year. It will never go out of fashion, the Knowledge is the only way to become a London black taxi driver. Anyone can drive with a satnav! They learn so much more than just the streets/directions.

@SockQueen I do have the knowledge. I began doing it as soon as I hit the correct age. We have a large map of London, from which we call the runs.
You have to have the Knowledge to become and examiner.

@rosiejaune Unfortunately, that was way before my time!
All streets/routes are in the 'blue book' which is given to the candidate. There are 320 routes which fall within a 6 mile radius of Charing Cross.
The knowledge doesn't particularly need updating, since the streets/routes remain the same. It's just the places on those streets that change.
As long as the passenger gives the driver the street name he should(!) know where to go.

@doodlejump1980 I have no idea who they are blush

HarshingMyMellow Wed 15-Aug-18 18:51:34

@MeetOnTheLedge the pass rate completely depends on the candidates.
They can keep retaking, of course! Some do give up.
Especially if they have received too many 'Ds' and are pushed back to the previous stage of appearances.
One potential driver was stuck on 56s for nearly 2 years, it was infuriating - he knew his stuff but clammed up in front of the examiners.
He went onto pass though!

HarshingMyMellow Wed 15-Aug-18 18:55:57

@JustHereForThePooStories it's mainly to see if the driver has the correct customer service/people skills to become a taxi driver.
They are put under an awful lot of pressure in the examinations rooms because - quite cruelly - we want to see if they cave under stress.

When my father completed the knowledge (many moons ago) the examiners were awful! They'd play so many mind games to see if the candidate would crack.
My father walked into the room once and was told to take off his jacket. He did so, then began his run.
Halfway through, the examiner interrupted him and said 'Why did you take your jacket off? I never told you you could do that!'
Mind games galore!

doodlejump1980 Wed 15-Aug-18 19:10:03

@HarshingMyMellow Hayley and Kat in EastEnders are currently doing the knowledge as part of the storyline.

Echo2 Wed 15-Aug-18 19:15:29

Do you see a future for black cabs?
Surely Uber will kill them off?

HarshingMyMellow Wed 15-Aug-18 19:58:08

@doodlejump1980 oh! I don't watch it. Who knows, they might be able to. Charlie(?) certainly did.

@Echo2 100% there is. Uber, as much as they are colonising right now, will never be a black taxi.
Many, many people will only use black cabs.
They're iconic. You think of London and you think of red buses/phone boxes/post boxes, Big Ben and black cabs.

gunnergirl Wed 15-Aug-18 20:11:22

I can remember early eighties doing knowledge runs with my dad every night testing him I think it's that that has made me good in London when finding my way

Echo2 Wed 15-Aug-18 20:12:25

Thanks op, I agree black cabs are iconic & the only cabs I ever take, ( apart from my local mini cab firm sometimes ).

HarshingMyMellow Wed 15-Aug-18 20:53:40

@gunnergirl I remember doing the same. I passed out very, very quickly and I think I've got my dad to thank for that!

@Echo2 I'm the same!

SockQueen Wed 15-Aug-18 22:18:21

How much do cabbies need to know about landmarks, famous sites, restaurants etc, on top of "just" all the street names? Some of the streets are pretty long if you don't know what you're looking for!

HarshingMyMellow Wed 15-Aug-18 23:10:18

@SockQueen they need to know all of the major points of interest.
So every hotel, hospital, train station, museum, court, restaurant...
They also need to know the current stage shows, temporary tourist attractions (think Winter Wonderland), changes in establishment names.

It gets harder as the appearances go on!

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