In a groundbreaking initiative, more than 820 Londoners have enrolled to study “The Knowledge” for free, a mandatory test for black taxi drivers. This move, described as the most significant boost to the capital’s taxi trade since the 2012 Olympics, has been spearheaded by Freenow, a taxi and minicab app.
Freenow is covering the entire cost of The Knowledge, a rigorous test that typically takes several years and can cost up to £5,000. The app is investing over £2,000 per training place, having secured places with two taxi driver schools, Knowledge Point School and WizAnn Knowledge School. This initiative aims to overcome the financial and time-related barriers to becoming a taxi driver.
Of the 820 applicants, around 550 meet the eligibility criteria, and 181 have already enrolled in training schools. Freenow is covering 100% of the application cost, tuition fee, exams, and licensing over a two-year period for minicab drivers already using its app.
Drivers from competing platforms, such as Uber, can also join the courses by completing 100 trips on the Freenow app and achieving a rating of at least 4.6, which Freenow believes can be accomplished within a fortnight.
Mariusz Zabrocki, General Manager at Freenow UK, expressed optimism about the initiative, stating, “This is the biggest recruitment push since preparations for the Olympics. We believe they can complete the course within two years or less.”
The move is seen as a significant step to boost the iconic black cab trade in London, and Mayor Sadiq Khan has indicated that Transport for London will be tasked with developing a “new vision” for the sector.
Freenow, a partnership between Mercedes and BMW, believes that the initiative will not only benefit drivers financially but also enhance their social status, as being a black cab driver is considered prestigious. The obligation for drivers to keep working for Freenow during their training period ends upon completion of the course.
To further support the significance of this initiative, readers may find valuable insights into the financial aspects of taxi driver training. For detailed information on financing options for aspiring black cab drivers, including the costs associated with The Knowledge, you can explore Taxi Finance Direct.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association welcomed the initiative, acknowledging the increasing interest in studying The Knowledge and highlighting the thriving demand for taxi services in London.
Transport for London’s new taxi strategy is expected to address challenges faced by the industry, including the replacement of retiring drivers and the continued adoption of “zero emission capable” taxis. More than half of London’s cabs can operate on electric power, but concerns have been raised about the high costs of acquiring new vehicles, which can reach up to £100,000.
Caroline Pidgeon, a Lib-Dem member of the London Assembly, expressed support for the mayor’s decision to engage with the taxi industry to shape a new strategy and action plan, considering the uncertainties and challenges faced by the iconic black taxi service.
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