Becoming a Hackney cab driver takes several years and requires a lot of training and you need to pass a test called “The Knowledge”, which is probably the hardest taxi driver test in the world.
To pass, drivers need to memorise every possible route through the city and know the names and locations of thousands of landmarks, museums, parks, police stations, churches, theatres and schools.
To become an ‘All-London’ taxi driver, drivers must learn 320 basic routes, all of the 25,000 streets which are located around these basic routes, plus approximately 20,000 landmarks and places of public interest which are located within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross Railway Station.
It takes the average person between 2 and 4 years to learn ‘the knowledge’. You can see trainee taxi drivers in London every day – they travel around the city on small scooters with maps attached to the front of the bike. These scooter (or moped) riders are not lost! They are following maps of one (or more) of the basic routes through London and are memorising it, learning the names of every street, pub, school and point of interest that they pass.
If you stop a black cab driver in the street and ask him to take you home after you have been shopping in Central London, he will be able to tell you quicker than any GPS system how to get to your house.
In Milano and other cities in Italy, the number of taxi drivers is restricted by local government, which creates a monopoly. This restriction allows drivers to sell their taxi licence at insane prices, usually for well over €100,000. In London, there is no restriction on the number of taxis, and if you can pass the ‘Knowledge’, you only need to pay between £230.00 and £115.00 for your Hackney Carriage (taxi) licence, depending on the type of vehicle you use. The lower price is for environmentally-friendly cars.