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The London Taxi

Updated on December 3, 2012

Many cities throughout the UK have adopted the London taxi as their official licensed taxi vehicle, so that their taxi fleet is instantly recognisable to the visitor. Invariably known as black cabs, fast blacks, or black hacks, taxi cabs are no longer only black as they can be in many colors, most notably the 50 gold-colored taxicabs produced for the queen’s golden Jubilee in 2002.

Taxicabs are also used widely for advertizing, and so their liveries may be painted in custom colors depending on the advertising company.

In recent years, other types of London taxi have come on the market, but the traditional hackney carriage type taxi is the one that we all know the best.

black taxi
black taxi

Little changed in appearance from the earliest model, the London taxi nowadays incorporates the latest technology to bring comfort and style to passengers and driver alike.

Licensed to carry 5 people apart from the driver, the wide rear seat easily sits three people, while the two tip-up seats directly behind the driver partition offers two more seats when needed.

There is also ample room for luggage in the compartment in the front beside the driver.

taxi with wheelchair ramp
taxi with wheelchair ramp

All London taxis can carry a passenger in a wheelchair, and are fitted with ramps to make entrance and exit relatively simple.

The driver having a separate compartment in the front of thecab allows extra protection for him in event of rowdy or violent passengers, while allowing privacy to the passengers in the rear.

All London taxis are fitted with meters on which the fare can be read at a glance, and those taximeters are triple checked for accuracy at the taxi testing stations.

The fares are set by the local authorities and cannot be tampered with by the driver.

London Taxis International (LTI) is the company behind the London Taxi, but it recently changed its name to simply the London Taxi Company.

The latest model is the TX4 which is quieter and cleaner than earlier models, but with few exterior changes.

inside a TX4 black taxi
inside a TX4 black taxi
inside of a black taxi
inside of a black taxi

In the back of a London taxi is a wide back seat, which has a fold-up armrest in the middle. The armrest can be further opened to become a raised child seat complete with seat-belt for your child's safety.

There is also a place into which you can plug a laptop computer so that city-types can keep on working on route to their destination.

Ashtrays have been removed since the No Smoking Ban became Law in the UK. There is no smoking permitted in public places or on public transport such as taxis.

Taxis also feature two tip-up seats behind the driver compartment which face rearward. This is incredibly convenient for larger parties who can then face each to continue conversations.

All London taxis feature fully adjustable seatbelts for every passenger, and by Law in the UK, you must wear them when the vehicle is in motiion.

The taxi driverhimself is exempted from this rule as his job entails exiting the taxi to assist passengers where needed. If you see ataxi driver wearing his seatbelt he is either extremely safety conscious, or he has finished his shift and is on his way home.

FX4 Fairway taxi
FX4 Fairway taxi

Black taxisare also fitted with a hearing loop which while it can be used as an intercom between his compartment and the back of the taxi, is an absolute boon to the hard-of-hearing as it is tuned into deaf aid wavebands.

This makes communication simple.

The driver of ablack cab is in a separate compartment from his passengers, with just a slide window for fare payment separating them.

This makes the working environment of a taxi driver safer. While the vast majority of citizens are respectable and law-abiding, taxi drivers have to deal with all sorts during the course of their shift, and some form of protection is ideal.

While the taxi is in motion, the back doors are automatically locked from the inside.

This is a safety feature to prevent children, or indeed drunk passengers from falling out. When the taxi is stationary it is possible to open the doors from the inside.

In all events, they can always be opened from the outside, so in event of accident passengers can be safely released.

On modern day black taxis, all the windows are electric, with a manual override switch in the driver's compartment.

So should you open a window during your journey and forget to close it at the end, don't worry about it too much because the driver can close it without having to leave the cab.

taxi roof sign on a saloon type car
taxi roof sign on a saloon type car

Many cities in the UK feature theblack cab. It is quite normal for many local authorities to demand that all their taxi fleet be of the type designed specifically for taxiing, rather than saloon type cars.

You may find in smaller areas, villages and airports, that the taxis on offer are saloon type with a taxi sign on the roof.

These taxis can only carry 4 people and you may have to telephone for a black taxi if there are more than 4 in your party, else take two taxis.

Black taxis are invariably known throughout the length and breadth of Britain by various names. In Glasgow they are commonly called Black Hacks, which is shortened from Black Hackney carriages, or Fast Blacks, presumably someone's idea of a joke, or maybe because they offer a fast service if you telephone for one.

Everyone everywhere knows them as Black taxis, or London taxis and Taxi Cabs are reserved for the rest of the world no doubt through various film and television productions.

The words 'taxi' and 'cabs' are reserved especially for taxis, though 'cab' also get used for the driver's part of a lorry.

Is this why it's called a Fast Black?


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    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      Mind and tell the drivers where you read it first ;)

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow, these are so cool! Can't wait to see taxis like this in SF. I hope I get to ride in a ton when I go to London this summer!

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      Thanks Ann :) Seems like the traditional black taxi may be getting rolled out across the world soon, now that Chinese motor manufacturer, Geely, have bought a stake in the company that makes London taxis.

    • annmackiemiller profile image


      7 years ago from Bingley Yorkshire England

      they are certainly an institution as are London cab drivers. great hub

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      Thanks Gramarye :) With 20 years experience of black taxi driving, it was easy for me to write about.

    • gramarye profile image


      7 years ago from Adelaide - Australia

      Izzy, this is a superb hub, really well written and attractive to look at. Really enjoyed it!

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      Doubt it. Glasgow at that time, and didn't join the taxis till 1982.

    • profile image

      Sophia Angelique 

      7 years ago

      And I used to take them. I wonder if our paths crossed. London 1975????

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      I drove them!

      I loved driving taxis. They really are great vehicles to drive, even if they did tend to break down a lot.

    • profile image

      Sophia Angelique 

      7 years ago

      Great hub, Izzy. :) In the 70s, there were only little black cabs. I still think that was the best!


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