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The Public Carriage Office is the governing body of the London taxi industry and is part of the Metropolitan Police. It licences the cabs, drivers, and owners, and has developed and maintained the guidelines and criteria for all aspects of the trade. Drivers are licensed for a period of three years, and cabs for one year - the vehicles are inspected regularly on the street and undergo a rigorous overhaul once a year. The PCO have to approve any fittings and advertising on cabs and have authority over any cab that breaches the rules. All complaints about the driver or cab are handled by the PCO who have the power to revoke a drivers licence. Complaints are extremely rare, however, and London taxi drivers are proud of their reputation.

The PCO licences 18,000 cabs and 23,000 drivers, of whom 20,000 hold the green "all London" badge which entitles them to work anywhere in the city, and proves they have completed the knowledge. Every taxi on London's streets is identifiable by its registration mark like any other vehicle, but also by its "plate number" displayed on the rear and in the passenger compartment. Drivers also have a unique "badge number" which they display at all times when working.

The Public Carriage Office was originally set up in 1850. First located in 'The Bungalow', an annex to the New Scotland Yard in Whitehall, it moved to 109 Lambeth Road in 1919, remaining there until 1966 when it moved to its present home, 15 Penton Street, London N1.

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