Iconic British Cab Company Is On The Skids

One of London's defining features is the black hackney cab. Along with the city's red double-decker buses, those shiny black cabs are moving landmarks on the city's streets. But the company that makes them is on the skids.

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And today's last word in business is Cab crisis.

One of London's defining features is the black hackney cab. Along with the city's red double-decker buses, those shiny black cabs are moving London landmarks. But the company that makes them is in trouble.


Unable to pay its debts, the company this week went into what's called there, Administration. Harry Harris has been driving a London cab for 25 years, but he's not too broken up about this.

HARRY HARRIS: The economics of the cab trade, now, just don't work out with one company producing this vehicle. And because the London taxi company has had a monopoly, it's never been made as good as a car and the workmanship is nowhere near up to scratch.

MONTAGNE: Harry Harris would like to find a way to keep them on the road.

INSKEEP: But, he says, that cabs are less important than the cabbies because of a test they take called The Knowledge - or The Knowledge.

HARRIS: ...which encompasses learning every single road, street, building, park, major monument in London. You'll be regularly tested on the way that you're progressing through that. And I think it takes about four years, now, to get a license. You know, it's probably the equivalent of studying some kind of academic degree.

MONTAGNE: So, if you visit London, the driver should get you where you're going, no matter what the taxi looks like.

INSKEEP: And that's the business news on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne.

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