About the Public Carriage Office


Since 1600 public carriages for hire for reward have been a feature of London life. The discarded coaches of aristocratic families, complete with their coat of arms, were among the first hackney carriages to ply their trade for hire. They were the forerunners of the French hackney carriage or cab (cabriolet) which first appeared in London around 1820.

The first horse free cab, the Bersey electric powered vehicle, appeared in 1897, followed by the first internal combustion engine cab in 1903. At that time London still had more than 11,000 horse drawn cabs. The last horse drawn cab was removed from service in 1947. There are now over 20,000 licensed vehicles on London’s roads.

Regulation of this trade passed to the Metropolitan Police in 1850 and was undertaken by the Public Carriage Office (PCO), which was originally located in an annex to New Scotland Yard in Whitehall called ‘the Bungalow’. It moved to 109 Lambeth Road in 1919, remaining there until 1966, when it moved to its present home, 15 Penton Street, Islington.

On the formation of Transport for London on the July, 3rd 2000 the licensing authority changed, however the day to day licensing function remained with the Public Carriage Office. The role of the PCO now includes the licensing of private hire services, following to the introduction of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998. Operator licensing is already complete, driver licensing underway and vehicle licensing has recently started. There are now over 2,000 licensed operators, about 40,000 drivers, of which over 6,000 are fully licensed, and also about 40,000 vehicles to inspect.

To cope with the additional volume a new integrated taxi and private hire information technology system (TAPITS) has been developed. Alongside this, plans are afoot to develop a computer-based Knowledge of London testing system that will interface with the proposed integrated system.

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