A few years ago, a number of morons in government decided that the taxi sector, which worked perfectly well even if they were a bit expensive, needed to be opened up to the evils, sorry benefits, of market forces.
In this great new world of free market taxis, passengers could negotiate prices, pick and chose their cabs and everything in the garden would be rosy. What these bright sparks failed to appreciate of course was that by abolishing the taxi licence, every Tom, Dick and Harry would start a taxi service - they say the city now has 6,000 - and it's chaos. Rip-off merchants who take the long way home, refuse short journeys, don't speak any language you do and drive around in death traps.
Now (in 2008) the city council has come up with the innovative concept of the 'quality taxi' - kwaliteitstaxi - which is supposed to offer a better service and give you some protection against being ripped off. The only taxis allowed to operate at central station are kwaliteitstaxis.
If you want to be relatively sure your taxi is okay, go for a TCA cab. TCA was the central taxi system which got busted open when the licence was abolished. You still have to fulfil certain standards to be a TCA taxi.
To order a cab, ring: 020 6777 777