London Taxi Drivers are almost as famous as the Black Cabs that they drive, due to their in-depth ‘Knowledge of London’ – giving them the ability to take passengers to their desired destination taking the shortest possible route in the quickest amount of time, without the aid of a Sat-Nav.
It doesn’t matter if you give them a street name, a famous landmark, a hotel name or famous point of interest, they will know exactly where it is and they will get you there in the shortest possible route.
London Taxi Drivers have gone through stringent training to obtain their Licence, they need to pass ‘The Knowledge’, a test which is amongst the hardest to pass in the world – it has been described as like having an atlas of London implanted into your brain.
London’s ‘Knowledge of London’ came into being after The Great Exhibition, way back in 1851 – an historical event which attracted over 6 million visitors to what was a much smaller London in the mid-19th century.
The Expo highlighted the fact that many ‘Hackney Carriage’ drivers, who were mainly unregulated, could not even find their way to the site in Hyde Park, let alone get their passengers back to their destinations!
As a result the ‘Metropolitan Police’ were given the task of overseeing the Taxi Trade, and ensuring that the drivers were ‘fit and proper’, and had sufficient Knowledge to do the job – and over the years this has become much more detailed.
‘The Knowledge’ requires students to memorize every possible route through the city as well as memorizing landmarks and points of interest – museums, parks, police stations, churches, theatres and schools and not just the famous landmarks like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace.
London Taxi Drivers need to have mastered no fewer than 320 basic routes, all of the 25,000 streets that are scattered within the basic routes and approximately 20,000 landmarks and places of public interest that are located within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross, a central London landmark.
It takes the average student nearly 4 years to learn ‘The Knowledge’, and only London Taxi Drivers that have gone on the pass their London Guide qualifications, accredited by the City University are taken on by ‘Black Cab Heritage Tours’.