Islington taxi ‘institution’ set to close - but don’t blame it on Uber

Mr O'Reilly, front, centre, with staff and trainees from the school

Mr O'Reilly, front, centre, with staff and trainees from the school - Credit: Archant

The manager of an iconic black cab training school has denied Uber is to blame for its closure next month.

The Knowledge Point School will shut on December 18 after 30 years in Islington, and 25 years in Caledonian Road.

But Derek O’Reilly, training manager for the past 20 years, denied media reports that the app-based private driver service is to blame.

He said Taxi Trade Promotions, which runs the school, is now looking for a new location.

Mr O’Reilly, 57, told the Gazette: “The landlords have chosen to sell the building for it to be developed into luxury apartments.

“The stuff about Uber was a throwaway comment made by one of my colleagues and certain media organisations came in with their own agenda.

“Numbers of students have been down but that’s because unemployment is down. When unemployment is high, more people train to be cab drivers.”

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Originally located in Angel, Knowledge Point School moved to Caledonian Road in 1989. Mr O’Reilly estimated two-thirds of London’s cabbies have passed through its doors, whether for full-time courses or training material.

Of the search for new premises, he said: “Our problem now is that property in central London, and Islington, is so expensive.

“But the nature of our business model dictates we have to be located centrally as we attract people from all over London.

“If we moved to the suburbs, it would be cheaper but it would alienate people.

“We obviously don’t want the school to close for good, but at the moment we can’t commit as we don’t know when or where we will relocate.”

Looking to next month’s vacation of Caledonian Road, Mr O’Reilly, of Aldgate, added: “It will be a terribly sad day. We are an Islington institution.

“We’ve been on TV at least 50 times. We’ve been invited to Tokyo to give talks to their taxi organisations. We provided trainee drivers for VIPs at the Olympics.”

As the company searches for a new training school base, it will continue to provide online training and maps.