CALLING ’SHOTGUN’ GONE: Reduced minicab seating could open the door to black taxis

Private hire vehicles are set to lose a quarter of their passenger capacity due to COVID-19 distancing rules.

In a bid to create consumer confidence in the safety of private hire vehicles, most minicab operators have dropped the use of the front passenger seat to create more distance away from the driver.

Private hire giants Addison Lee were first to announce their hopes to become the first operator to install partition screens across all its fleet of 4,000 vehicles. The partitions currently being installed separate the front two seats, meaning only three passengers can now squeeze into the back seats.

Addison Lee acted fast following findings from a survey involving their 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.

Even without partitions, private hire operators are also taking similar measures. A spokesperson from minicab firm Kapten, said: “All Kapten passengers will now be required to sit on the back seats, limiting contact between riders and drivers.

“The number of passengers in each car will be reduced to account for the front seat being unavailable. In most cases this means that a maximum of three passengers will be allowed to travel.”

Uber also recently notified their drivers and passengers of a change in policy. The ride-hailing app went on to suggest the possibility of locking front doors to stop riders entering. If passengers fail to comply with the new policy, drivers have been given permission to refuse the trip and receive a cancellation fee from the rider.

Groups and families travelling in four or more will now have to decide whether taking multiple private hire vehicles is more cost effective and socially responsible.

As lockdown measures ease, the increased capacity and partition could become an important selling point for black cabs across the UK.

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