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Taxicabs are regulated throughout the United Kingdom, but the regulation of taxicabs in London is especially rigorous with regard to mechanical integrity and driver knowledge. An official report observed that: “Little however is known about the regulation by anyone outside the trade. The Public Carriage Office, which regulates and licenses taxis and private hire (commonly known as minicabs) was transferred from the Metropolitan Police to become part of Transport for London in 2000.”[1] In 2015, there were around 298,000 licensed drivers in England, of which 164,000 were private hire licenses, 62,000 were taxi licenses and 72,000 were dual licenses.[2]

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Private hire (minicabs)[edit]

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A Ford Focus UK private minicab with company name and telephone number on each side


Private hire minicabs

In London the term minicab is used to refer to a private hire car and “private hire” is used in the rest of the United Kingdom; that is a car with a driver available for hire only on a pre-booked basis. They began operating in the 1960s in competition with hackney carriages after a loophole in the law was spotted (although in some areas it is possible to hold a dual hackney/private hire license). A minicab must be booked, for example, by telephone, internet, or fax, or in person at the registered minicab office. A minicab can be booked at the time it is required, but only at the office of a company registered to accept bookings rather than directly with a driver.

Since 2001 minicabs have been subject to some regulation in London and most other local authorities. London minicabs are now licensed by TFL (London Taxis and Private Hire), or LTPH, formerly known as the Public Carriage Office. This is the same body that now regulates London’s licensed taxicabs, but the minicab drivers do not have to complete ‘The Knowledge’, and although they must undergo a small ‘topographical test’ in order to obtain a ‘Private Hire’ Drivers Licence, they generally rely on sat navs to take them to the pick up and destination. All vehicles available for pre-booking by London minicab drivers must hold a PH license showing that the vehicles are fit for purpose; this is updated with ‘mot tests’ twice a year after an inspection at a licensed garage. In London new applicants must send their ‘Topographical test Certificate’ along with their application to the PH Driver Licensing Section of the LTPH.

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