The distinction between the famous London black cabs – Hackney Carriages as they are quaintly still known – and the growing number of private hire vehicles, otherwise known as minicabs, is one that is defined by dome clear differences in the manner in which they operate. While all taxis are regulated and licensed – in London and elsewhere – the way in which a cab can be hailed or booked is the major difference.
Black cabs can be hailed
We are all familiar with the legendary London taxi – a vehicle so distinctive that it has a following of its own – and many a popular film set in the capital will feature someone flagging down a black cab in the street. The yellow ‘For Hire’ light is another famous feature, and yet many people are unaware that it is only the black cabs that can be hailed as they pass.
Private hire minicab can only be booked
This is down to laws that have been around for a long time, and it remains so that a private hire minicab, typically a saloon car or people carrier, can only be booked by personal contact, by telephone, email or fax, and even then only at a registered minicab office and not by talking to the driver. This is for security reasons, of course, and is something that came about when minicabs became a challenge to traditional black cabs in the 1960’s.
Private hire minicabs are strictly regulated in the capital and must pass a roadworthiness test twice each year and display a licence that is current; drivers are also required to pass a topographical test and are awarded a certificate, although this test is not the famous one that is required by black cab drivers – known as ‘The Knowledge’ – but a different and more basic test.
The advantage of a pre-agreed fare
With an unlimited amount of taxi’s operating in London – unlike many cities there is no regulatory maximum – there is plenty of competition, especially between black cabs and minicab companies; while the black cab will be a fare that is calculated by the meter a minicab booked in advance gives you the advantage of a pre-agreed fare, and this is something that attracts many people to the service.
Pay what you want
Indeed, there is a tendency for people to stick with one favourite taxi operator in their area, but with a minicab booking service such as Cabmania – with confirmation by email or text – you are inviting the taxi operators to submit the best price they can and, therefore, getting the right deal. Cabmania booking services also offer a system whereby you can tender a price for the journey, and if an operator agrees to it you pay what you want!
Choosing between a black cab and a minicab in London is often difficult; for that urgent journey there is no substitute for hailing a cab on the street, but for a journey planned in advance the pre-booked minicab may well be the best bet.