1 in 60

It’s not far away! Soon the London media will be crammed with stories about Christmas: will companies be putting on a bash for a job well done; what to wear; how to stay sober; and that perennial – how to get a cab home.

Transport for London have now embraced your concerns about getting home this year by issuing 1,000 private hire licences a month*, this month next month and every month this year.

[S]uch is the rise of mini-cabs and the relative ease with which to obtain a licence one Knowledge school has reported a drop of 66 per cent in the number of students willing to give up over three years of their life to studying London.

On a number of occasions this year the populace has been inconvenienced by Black Cabbies protesting at Transport for London’s inability to apply the regulations – that the London authority has imposed – evenly across the entire taxi industry. I won’t bore you with the details, much has been written in the media of the pros and cons of flooding London with mini-cabs.

The one fact, taken from official figures, you need to know as we approach the party season is this:

For every sixty inhabitants who live in the capital one now drives a taxi for a living. Yes 1 in 60 now drives a taxi in London.

It’s reassuring isn’t it? That down your street and down everybody’s street there are at least four drivers.

Now if you take London’s official population of 8,630,000 and deduct from that those unable to drive: too young; too old; unable to work; or just too lazy, you are left with a working population of about, say six million.

If you have stuck with me thus far you might question the figures as many who are employed commute daily from the Home Counties into London. That journey might be acceptable – just – if you could occasionally get a seat on the train and upon arrival at your workstation spend a little time staring into the middle distance or updating your Facebook status.

Unfortunately when driving for 8-10 hours a day in a black cab and up to 16 hours a day for Uber drivers, the last thing you want is a two hour drive home. So most cabbies will be found living within the M25 borders.

From those broad assumptions it isn’t unreasonable to extrapolate that with a working population of approximately six million in London, and with official figures of 87,600 private hire licenses and 25,000 cab licenses issued, about 100,000 drive taxis for a living and live within the M25 or about 1 in 60.

Now we can turn to drivers’ suitability. With Transport for London officially issuing 1,000 private hire licenses a month, or 250 per week, or, if you like, 50 per working day, it means that every 8½ minutes an applicant – to the exclusion of all those unsuitable – is approved.

You have to give Transport for London credit for their endeavours in ensuring everyone gets home after the office party by managing the herculean task of investigating an applicant’s possible criminal record, National Insurance, working permit, health check, valid driver’s licence, hire and reward insurance and basic knowledge of London’s topography every 8½ minutes.

At this rate of licence approvals by next year’s Mayoral elections, London will have another 8,000 drivers deemed suitable for private hire, which will give you 120,000 legal drivers and an unknown number of illegal drivers from which to choose when you need a taxi.

And that’s something to consider as you stand in the election booth with your pencil poised deciding which candidate to choose.

*The head of one of London’s largest taxi radio circuits has stated that there are between 600-700 private hire licences being issued every week far higher than the estimates I have used in this post. If those figures are correct by the end of the decade Transport for London will have issued an additional 154,000 licences to that already in force.

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