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Khan urges taxi drivers to seek mental health help during “difficult time” as road closures begin

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

“I understand that this has been a difficult time for drivers,” says London Mayor in the lead-up to Streetspace announcements.

The Mayor has urged London’s black taxi drivers to seek help with Transport for London (TfL) should they feel like they are mentally struggling with the extra pressures imposed on them since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Lower work levels and plans to deny road access in key areas has left the black cab industry frustrated and concerned for their immediate futures.

As part of the Streetspace programme, TfL announced this week changes to the way traffic is managed on Bishopsgate. These changes include introducing bus and cycle only access from Monday to Friday, between 7am to 7pm from mid-July.

Concerns over disabled access in the new Bishopsgate plans have been raised if there is a lack of access to London’s only fully wheelchair accessible fleet of vehicles. However, Will Norman, Mayor of London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, has contradicted the plans and reassured disabled users that “the plans will allow taxi access for all”.

Since 2018 the black taxi industry has invested nearly £200million into 3,500 zero-emission vehicles to clean up the capital’s poor air quality.

Responding to a written question put forward by London Assembly Member David Kurten on the topic of road access for black taxis, the Mayor did acknowledge the importance of the service for people with disabilities or mobility issues.

Sadiq Khan said: “I recognise the important role taxis play in moving people around London. The accessible nature of taxis means they are particularly important to people with disabilities or mobility issues. 

“Taxis are already permitted to access the vast majority of roads in London including more than 90 per cent of bus lanes. The former Transport Commissioner, Mike Brown, wrote to all London boroughs and the City of London earlier this year asking them to implement initiatives to support the taxi trade, including access to bus lanes, taxi ranks and rapid charging infrastructure.  

“My ambitious Streetspace Plan is essential to avoid a sharp increase in car use. If people switch even a fraction of their previous public transport journeys to cars, then essential deliveries, taxi trips and emergency services will face rising traffic and congestion. It is vital that TfL rapidly implements these projects, carefully designed to protect essential vehicle access, while enabling millions more journeys to be made by cycling and walking. 

“I understand that this has been a difficult time for drivers. I would urge drivers who are struggling with mental health to access TfL’s Occupational Health resources.”

EDIT: The London Mayor has since apologised after incorrect information on the subject of mental health issues faced by taxi drivers was release as above.

In the updated response Khan moves away from the offer of access to TfL’s Occupational Health resources. Instead self-employed cabbies are now encouraged to visit the regulator’s Health and Wellbeing website page for more advice and help.

Image credit: LEVC


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