Home Taxi driver Council error means private taxi drivers don’t have to take ‘knowledge’ test

Council error means private taxi drivers don’t have to take ‘knowledge’ test

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A blunder by Plymouth City Council means new private taxi drivers won’t have to pass the famous ‘knowledge’ test of city streets. Councilors voted to agree to a controversial new taxi licensing policy in March 2022 – but an unnoticed printing error meant they only approved the test for new black taxi drivers.

So from May 1, 2022, anyone who wants to become a chauffeur won’t have to spend days scanning the map of Plymouth, learning its geography and the best routes to get a passenger from A to B. The council said that he could now have to change the policy, but can only do so at a full council meeting, which cannot be convened until after local elections in May.

It is the second taxi-related embarrassment to hit the council in days after it emerged that signs directing the public to new town center taxi ranks had not been put up. Drivers in Hackney said they were losing income because customers did not know where to find a taxi as the traditional Old Town street rank was out of service due to town center redevelopment.

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Martin Leaves, secretary of the Plymouth Licensed Taxi Association (PLTA) of hackney taxis, said the council’s latest gaffe was damaging the whole taxi profession and said it could shake public confidence in the service. He said: “We think everyone should do the knowledge test, it’s part of the necessary skills.”

He added: “Some people say not having the knowledge test would speed up recruitment of drivers, but do we want them to move around using GPS? We want drivers to be professional, and to be professional, they have to pass the knowledge test.

“These are serious times, we want to protect women from violence and we need to make sure we have professional drivers, especially for people with learning disabilities. You wouldn’t want someone doing your jobs electricity if he was not fully qualified, and no one wants to get into a taxi whose driver does not know where he is going.

Plymouth councilors approved the 2022 Hackney Transport and Private Hire Licensing Policy at the March full council meeting. Police have been dogged by controversy because they remove the limit on the number of hackney cabs and insist the famous black cabs will be green and white in color by 2027.

The council had wanted to remove the need for private drivers to pass the Plymouth Knowledge Topography Test (KOP) as a prerequisite for obtaining a licence. He had argued that a hackney taxi was for immediate public hire and required instant knowledge of the quickest route, whereas a private hire had to be booked in advance so the route could be worked out before to pick up the passenger.

But this suggestion had been abandoned. The document councilors voted on, however, still contained the wording “Plymouth Topographical Knowledge Test (KOP) (for carriage applications only)”.

A spokesperson for Plymouth City Council said: ‘Unfortunately the line in the taxi license policy stating ‘for carriage applications only’ in reference to the KOP test should have been removed. However, as approved by the full board, the policy will be implemented as published. This means that from May 1, 2022, all new private hire applicants will not be required to take the KOP test. We are sorry for any confusion caused and will review this to determine whether to send the policy back to the full board.

Meanwhile, taxi drivers are still waiting for signs to be placed in the city center informing people of the location of the new ranks. Plymouth City Council admitted that due to a ‘misunderstanding’ contractor Mildren Construction failed to install any signage. The authority apologized for the fault and promised to rectify the situation.

Mr Leaves said he waited 40 minutes at the new rank of Cornwall Street, before anyone got into his taxi. He said the average wait in Old Town Street was around 10 minutes. He said some drivers had reported waiting more than three hours on the new row and said signage needed to be put in place without delay. He said: “Drivers are getting really anxious.”

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