Black cabs can be hailed in the street or from one of around 450 designated ranks situated at prominent places including rail, Tube and bus stations.
There are also three taxi radio circuits (pre-booking services) which take telephone/email bookings for taxis.
All London taxis are wheelchair accessible and many have other features to assist passengers, including grab handles, swivel seats, intermediate steps and induction loops.
Guide and other assistance dogs are carried free of charge.
We are responsible for the annual inspection of all vehicles and ensuring that all taxi drivers are of good character, medically fit and have passed the world-famous 'Knowledge' - the examination for becoming a licensed taxi driver in the Capital.
This test requires drivers to gain a detailed knowledge of roads and places of interest and takes, on average, between two and four years to pass.
We also regulate taxi tariffs, appoint taxi ranks (outside the City) and, in recent years, installed 'taxi poles' to help customers identify the ranks.
We license London's private hire trade, which includes minicab, executive car and chauffeur-driven services.
All private hire journeys must be pre-booked through a licensed operator.
Operators are required to keep records of every booking made, and of the drivers and vehicles they use.
As with licensed taxis, we are responsible for the licensing of all vehicles and drivers, although drivers are not required to pass the Knowledge exam but must instead pass a basic topographical test.
The essential difference between taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) is that it is illegal for private hire vehicles to pick up passengers in the street.
They are also not permitted to use taxi ranks. The licensing of private hire drivers started in 2003 and, as with taxi drivers, applicants undergo a CRB check and a medical assessment to prove their fitness.
These checks are repeated every three years. The licensing of PHVs started in April 2004. All vehicles must pass an annual inspection and have two MOTs a year.
Private hire vehicles are identified by the display of a distinctive licence disc on the front and rear windscreens.
We work closely with the Taxi and Private Hire trade, the MPS and the City of London Police to ensure the safety of passengers using London's taxi and private hire services, including tackling touting and unlawful plying for hire.
Over 400 officers are mobilised for major operations such as Safer Travel at Night. We directly fund 68 dedicated police cab enforcement officers, 41 TfL compliance officers and 32 vehicle inspection staff. The operations also use Safer Transport Team officers and a group of 290 female police officers are called upon as part of covert anti-touting operations.
They tackle touting and other cab-related offences in a number of ways. These include covert and high visibility operations across London which aim to detect, disrupt and deter touts.
A 'one strike and out' policy was introduced in July 2008. Any licensed private hire driver convicted of touting will have their licence revoked.
Police are now using powers to crush vehicles seized from persistent offenders as part of an increase in enforcement against touting and other illegal cab activity.
In 2002/03, the Safer Travel at Night initiative was launched to raise awareness of the risks of using unbooked minicabs.
We work closely with the police, the Greater London Authority and local authorities in a coordinated effort to make travelling at night safer.
There are also late-night marshalled taxi ranks in Liverpool Street and Haymarket in central London, and Bromley, Beckenham, Kingston and Romford in outer London.
From January 2012, PHVs have had to conform to strict age limits - 10 years for PHVs and 15 years for taxis.
This measure was brought in as part of a range to improve air quality in the Capital.
There are limited exemptions for historic vehicles.