Gerry, a cabbie with four children, outlines the costs that accompany a career as a self-employed taxi driver.
Everyone must buy and maintain their vehicle: a basic taxi costs £34,000 before tax, and even if one chooses to
rent, it is still at £150-£200 per week. With the average daytime earning rates of a taxi driver between £10-£20
per hour, with meter rates, licence fees, maintenance, tax and diesel still to come out of that, it is easy to see
how taxi driving is far from lucrative. And this earning potential comes only after three years of study and
application of The Knowledge. As Gerry says, "It's a living, but it's not the living it was."
For now, taxi drivers are getting by, even if a career in a licensed cab feels less secure than in the past.
While GPS systems are enhancing the possibilities for taxi drivers outside the capital, they are nowhere near
sophisticated enough to compete with the common sense and detailed knowledge of the London black-cab driver. That
could change, though. Between the Transport and General Workers Union and the city authorities, a solution needs to
be found if a solid career as a licensed taxi driver is not to become a thing of the past. At present, GPS can only
do so much; there still needs to be a committed professional at the wheel. And, as any cabbie will tell you, a
little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Taxi drivers' brains 'grow' on the job
Cabbies' brains adapt to hold "the knowledge"
Cab drivers' grey matter enlarges and adapts to help them store a detailed mental map of the city, according to
Taxi drivers given brain scans by scientists at University College London had a larger hippocampus compared with
other people. This is a part of the brain associated with navigation in birds and animals.
The scientists also found part of the hippocampus grew larger as the taxi drivers spent more time in the job. I
never noticed part of my brain growing - it makes you wonder what happened to the rest of it.
"There seems to be a definite relationship between the navigating they do as a taxi driver and the brain changes,"
said Dr Eleanor Maguire, who led the research team.
She said: "The hippocampus has changed its structure to accommodate their huge amount of navigating
The research confirms something which London's black-cab drivers have suspected for some time - learning their
way around the capital is a brain-straining feat.