Taxi FAQs

  • Definitions:
    A hackney carriage is "a carriage exposed for hire to the public whether standing in the public street or in a private yard".

  • What's in a name?
    Taxis, Cabs and Hackneys are all terms describing vehicles which are legally allowed to ply for hire - it is an offence for other types of vehicle to display the words 'Taxi', 'Cab' or 'Hire'.

  • Why is a taxi called a taxi?
    The name taxicab - usually abbreviated to taxi - derives from the taximeter, the instrument which measures the distance travelled - or time taken - thus allowing an accurate fare to be determined. This device was invented by Wilhelm Bruhn in 1891.

  • And a hackney carriage?
    A carriage drawn by a hackney - from the old French word haquenee - an ambling horse or mare. Originally 4-wheeled carriages, a hackney is now synonymous with a taxi. London's last horse drawn carriage received its licence in 1946 (and surrendered it in 1947), although some other licensing authorities - notably in tourist centres such as York - still license horse drawn taxis.

  • And a cab?
    An abbreviation for cabriolet, a one-horse two-wheeled carriage let out for hire. Cabs replaced hackney carriages in the 1840s and 1850s due to their greater manouvrability in the crowded city streets, particularly those designed by a certain Mr Hansom.

  • Are there any limits on the numbers of taxis?
    There have been no limits on numbers since 1831 - the only restriction is the requirement on prospective cabbies to fulfil certain legal conditions (full licence, good character etc) and to pass the extensive 'Knowledge' test, which requires the equivalent of between one and two year's full time work (on average).

  • How many taxis and taxi-drivers are there in London?
    In 1986 there were 19,000 drivers and 14,000 cabs in London - in 1996 there are 22,000 licensed drivers and 17,000 licensed cabs.

  • How many makes of licensed taxi are there?
    Vehicles must meet certain specifications to be approved for use in London. Just three do so at the present:
      • the Fairway
      • the Metrocab
      • the Asquith
    Licensing authorites outside London also approve taxi designs, but these are unlikely to appear on the streets of London as they have thus far failed to meet what seems to be the hardest requirement - a 25 foot turning circle.
  • When were the first London taxis licensed?
    In 1639 a licence was granted to the Corporation of Coachmen (to enable them to compete with licensed sedan chairs). 1662 was the first year in which Hackney Carriages were licensed; drivers were not licensed until 1838.

  • Which laws govern taxis?
    The Hackney Carriage Act 1831 was the first major legislation governing taxis and has been renewed and extended since - below are some other Acts of Parliament that apply to the trade:

      • London Hackney Carriage Act 1843
      • Town Police Clauses Act 1847
      • Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869
      • London Cab Act 1896, 1968
      • London Cab and Stage Carriage Act 1907
      • London Cab Order 1934, 1973
      • Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976
      • Transport Act 1980
      • Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

  • Who adminsters and enforces the laws applying to taxis?
    The Metropolitan Police Cab Law Enforcement Section investigates complaints from the public, and enforce the laws applying to the taxi trade throughout London. Vehicles and drivers are licensed by the Metropolitan Police: these licences are actually issued by the Public Carriage Office.

  • What geographical area does this cover?
    The Metropolitan Police District, the City of London and London Airport (Heathrow).

  • And outside London?
    Taxi operations outside London are controlled by local authorities under the provisions of various Acts of Parliament: the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 [which extends the 1847 Act], the Transport Act 1985 and bye-laws subject to Home Office approval.

  • Is the colour of badge significant?
    Drivers who have passed the 'Knowledge' test for the whole of London are issued with a green metal badge, and may work in the whole of the Metropolitan Police District; drivers wearing a yellow metal badge have passed another 'Knowledge' test covering a smaller part of London - basically the suburbs - entitling the wearer to work in that part of London, and specifically NOT within a six mile radius of Charing Cross, nor at Heathrow Airport.

  • When may a driver NOT use the meter?
    If the destination is outside the Metropolitan Police District, the driver has the option of negotiating a fare with the passenger.

  • When may a driver refuse a fare?
    The driver is not obliged to stop when flagged down, but if he does he must accept the fare unless it is over 6 miles in distance or finishes beyond the boundaries of the licensing area. If the taxi is waiting on a rank or at a stand, he or she must take the fare (unless there is a reasonable reason not to - whatever reasonable may mean).

  • What exactly is a taxi tout?
    A tout is someone who acts "in a public place to solicit persons to hire vehicles to carry them as passengers". Typically they operate in mainline railway stations, airports or other busy public places, and offer a cheaper than standard fare - although invariably the fare finally paid is many times the standard rate. Also touting may invalidate any insurance they may have - and as the touts and drivers are acting illegally it is unlikely they will have specialist hire-and-reward insurance cover. Touting was made a criminal offence in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.