Updated: Jul 4, 2020
Private Hire operators Addison Lee have been forced to remove vehicle partition screens following Transport for London (TfL) licensing threats, according to sources.
The action comes after the private hire firm announced earlier this week they were to launch an investigation after an incident involving a faulty partition screen emerged.
The incident, caught on video and shared via social media, captured what was believed to be an Addison Lee vehicle transporting a passenger. During the video the new partition screen is seen coming away from its rooftop fixing and folding over into the passenger compartment.
Helen Chapman, Transport for London’s (TfL) Director of Licensing, Regulation and Charging, responded to the incident earlier this week saying: “The safety of licensees and anyone travelling in a taxi or private hire vehicle is paramount.
“We completely understand why some drivers would want to explore having a temporary screen fitted, but any such screen must comply with government and industry regulations in addition to our own requirements to ensure it does not compromise safety.
“We are aware of reports of some private hire vehicles that have been fitted with unapproved screens, and we will take appropriate licensing action where we find this.”
The incident comes after Addison Lee first announced its plans to become the first operator to install partition screens between drivers and passengers across its fleet of 4,000 vehicles in May.
That move came following findings from a survey of Addison Lee’s largest customers revealing that 80% of them will review policies around how employees get to and from work, with 90% citing safety as their priority when it comes to using minicabs or taxis.
In a letter to its drivers, shared by the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) and other taxi representatives, the private hire firm’s CEO, Liam Griffin, details the reasons for the removal of the screens.
In the letter dated 2 July, it reads: “Addison Lee has been incredibly focused on the drivers wellbeing and safety during this COVID-19 pandemic and we have done all we can to help protect you in terms of PPE, deep cleaning and putting safety screens in the cars.
“We believe that the safety screens create a barrier between you and the customer that adds a level of protection that would otherwise not exist and is therefore important for your protection.
“TfL however, have now set out a technical criteria for screens in Private Hire Vehicles that is completely unachievable. There are no screens on the market that meet this criteria so as a consequence TfL have now threatened Addison Lee with licensing action if we do not instruct the removal of the screens from our vehicles.
”Regrettably, I therefore need to formally request, in order to protect our PCO operator license, that if you currently have a screen installed in your vehicle that it is now removed from your vehicle. I would like to emphasise that it is your responsibility to remove the screen from your car and anyone failing to do so will be at risk of being stopped by PCO enforcement officers.
“If customers question why you no longer have the safety screen in place then please advise them that TfL have enforced the removal of them from our cars and that is definitely not our choice.
“We remain firm believers in the screens and we will continue to lobby TfL to make the criteria more reasonable and as soon as we are able to meet the required standards we will be putting screens back in the cars to help keep you safe. We continue to put your safety first, which is why we provide you with PPE, deep cleaning of vehicles and encourage social distancing and vehicles. We are very sorry that TfL are failing to give you the extra protection we would like you to have and thank you for your continued hard work and support during this time.”
TaxiPoint have contacted Addison for further comment, but are yet to receive a response.