New guidance clarifies that the use of partition screens in London private hire vehicles must all comply with government, industry and licensing standards.
In the updated advice for holders of a London taxi and private hire licence, TfL detail a number of new health and safety features for drivers to follow. This comes after recent government announcements around the easing of lockdown in the coming months.
The update, officially called a ’Notice’, also provides detailed guidance relating to the industries from the London Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell (STAC).
In late April, regulators TfL approached STAC to ask it to examine issues around use of taxi and private hire services during the coronavirus pandemic.
London’s black taxis are already fitted with partitions between drivers and passengers, however the majority of minicabs in London do not have dividing safety screens installed.
In the guidance provided to TfL and drivers it states there is no evidence available that demonstrates that partitions in taxis or mincabs reduces the risk of transmission of COVID-19 infection.
The update goes on to say that “whilst it is possible that partitions may reduce the risk of transmission of infection, the risk would not be eliminated entirely”.
It was also made clear that it is not possible for the STAC or Public Health England (PHE) to assess the likely effectiveness of screens in reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in taxis or private hire vehicles.
For minicab drivers wishing to install a partition or safety screen in their vehicles, it would need to comply to government and industry regulations and TfL’s requirements as the licensing authority.
Guidelines as to how partitions should be positioned and used in minicabs have been published and made available since 2016. However, according to the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), due to a lack of demand there are no 'approved' partitions or installers in the capital.
Yesterday the United Private Hire Drivers group (UPHD) had criticised TfL’s decision to refuse safety screens in private hire vehicles, saying drivers and passengers are being put at risk despite the option of installing screens in vehicles bring made available since 2016.
A spokesperson for the UPHD, said: "As commuters return to work and are advised to avoid public transport, demand for private hire services is likely to sky-rocket. Without immediate regulatory intervention to control infection in the industry, we are likely to see another spike in driver deaths and also passengers.”
In other advice provided by the STAC it recommended that medical standard face masks and gloves are not necessary for transport workers.
Instead face coverings were encouraged to stop people who have the virus transmitting it on to other people in the vehicle.
Drivers should also clean hard surfaces such as door handles, window winders, seat belts, card payment devices, the rear of the front seats and other surfaces passengers may have touched after each journey. Drivers should then wash or sanitise their own hands.
Further guidelines also suggests that drivers should:
Wash or sanitise their hands more often and avoid handling money where possible.
Sit in the vehicle allowing for a 2m social distancing gap or maximum where possible.
Provide good ventilation by keeping windows down. Air conditioning should be set to not recirculate air within the vehicle.
Provide a thorough clean of the vehicle after each shift or working day should be conducted.
Graham Robinson, TfL Taxi and Private Hire General Manager, said: “All licensees are asked to follow the latest information from Government alongside the detailed advice from STAC. Any additional advice and guidance will be published in the form of a future Taxi and Private Hire Notice.”