Blue Book Run 320

[T]here are over 24,000 licensed taxi drivers in London; and in order to ply for hire every single one of them, like every one of their predecessors has had to pass an exam called “The Knowledge Of London”. It was initiated in 1865, and has changed little since. This clip from writer Jack Rosenthal’s 1981 play The Knowledge is the story of four men and their attempts to become cab drivers. In the process, they acquire a different kind of knowledge: knowledge of themselves and of those closest to them, of their strengths and weaknesses, of what they want from life – and how knowledge itself is the means of getting it . . . It perfectly depicts that journey from application form to Green Badge.

So today I thought it might be possible to listen in to a Knowledge student undertaking an examination. When you are accepted to start The Knowledge you are given The Blue Book – the fact that the cover of mine was pink is somewhat irrelevant, the cover was once blue so it remains forever known as The Blue Book. There are 320 Blue Book Runs – just simple routes criss-crossing London which are designed to cover most eventualities – that you are expected to learn by heart.

Upon examination which is conducted on a one-to-one basis (called an ‘Appearance’) you are rarely asked a Blue Book Run, but rather a point nearby which could be anything that could conceivably be asked of by a passenger.

So for this, the last run in the Blue Book (which is Copenhagen Street to Charing Cross Station), you might be asked the Lewis Carroll Children’s Library to the Zimbabwe High Commission, for that you would answer Bemerton Street to Strand (Note: Not The Strand for it appears on the A to Z as Strand).

If you gave the correct answer to both locations you would then be allowed to proceed by relating the route orally (known as “Calling Over”) to the examiner.

As the pupil progresses the examiner will mix and match runs, but the student will still “call over” runs parrot fashion with fellow students so he can recall the 320 runs of roads verbatim.

The examiner is waiting to hear you call the run to him, so here we go:

Leave on right Bemerton Street

Left Copenhagen Street

Right Caledonia Road

Forward King’s Cross Bridge

Right Gray’s Inn Road

Bear Left Euston Road

Left Judd Street

Right Leigh Street

Left Marchmont Street

Right Coram Street

Left Woburn Place

Comply Russell Square

Leave by Montague Street

Right Great Russell Street

Left Bloomsbury Street

Forward Shaftsbury Avenue

Right Princes Circus

Bear Left Shaftsbury Avenue

Bear Left Monmouth Street

Forward Upper St. Martin’s Lane

Right Cranbourne Street

Left Charing Cross Road

Forward St. Martin’s Place

Left Duncannon Street

Left Strand

Set down on Left

If you have access to a London map you will note that many “streets” are only a few yards long even so you are expected to call them to the examiner.

‘Paul’ is recounting his progress on The Knowledge and if you wish to follow his blog it gives a pretty good idea of his progress.

4 thoughts on “Blue Book Run 320”

  1. I am 23 y old girl and I do Knowledge of London I think it is amazing, very hard, difficult, take time and energy but give a lot of satisfaction. I studied for couple years law on university and no one can compare Knowledge to it. I have a lot of respect to cab drivers just because they did it, it is really big thing.

    I love it, I hope one day soon I will be a cabbie 🙂
    Ps I have some statistic about K may be interesting to you.

    The number of people registered as studying to become a licensed All
    London taxi driver was:

    . 2006/07 – 7,360

    . 2007/08 – 8,268

    . 2008/09 – 8,149

    The number of All London taxi driver licences issued was:

    . 2006/07 – 545

    . 2007/08 – 492

    . 2008/09 – 531

    The number of All London taxi driver licences surrendered was:

    . 2006/07 – 560

    . 2007/08 – 393

    . 2008/09 – 446


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