Taxi representatives tell Government Minister ‘drivers are eager to assist in the fight against the deadly virus and put their vehicles to good use’ as calls to assist in COVID vaccine rollout grows further.
Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), wrote to the newly appointed Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment detailing the key benefits of using partitioned black cabs to help reach London’s most vulnerable in the community.
In the letter addressed to Nadhim Zahawi MP, Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment, the LTDA writes:
“Firstly, I would like to welcome your appointment as Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment, an extremely important role, at this critical time for our country. I am writing to offer the support of London’s black cab trade in helping you ensure that people can access vaccination sites, in a safe and socially distanced way, as roll out gathers pace in London and the surrounding areas.
“Making use of purpose-built black cabs and professional licensed taxi drivers in this way has been proposed by number of MPs, including Charles Walker, who described the “army of black cab drivers” eager and waiting to help. I would be delighted to work with your officials and others in the taxi trade, to make this possible.
“My organisation the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTAD) is the largest membership body representing London’s 21,000 black cab drivers. During this national lockdown, and prior to that, under the tier restrictions, many drivers have been forced to take their cabs off the road or are desperately struggling to make ends meet is due to the catastrophic fall in passenger demand. These drivers are eager to assist in the fight against the deadly virus and put their vehicles to good use.
“Purpose-built licensed taxis have a range of features, which make them a more COVID-secure form of transport and ideally placed to assist the Department and local authorities with the vaccine rollout, particularly with regard to reaching the most vulnerable and elderly, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“London’s licensed black taxis feature a partition between driver and passenger, plenty of space for social distancing and designed to be easily cleaned and sterilised. By following the Department for Transport Safer Travel Guidance, including cleaning between passengers, ventilating, sitting passengers on seats furthest away from the driver and both passengers and drivers wearing masks, drivers are taking every possible precaution to make the cabs as safe as possible. All drivers also undergo enhanced DBS checks as a licensing requirement.
“In view of these features, many of our members have supported vulnerable passengers and helped transport key workers such as NHS staff, already during the crisis and are keen to assist further in any way they can.”
Back at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in March last year, the Prime Minister said black cabs were a ‘fantastic service’ and that they could ‘certainly rise to the challenge’ of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced then that ministers were looking at the feasibility of asking black cab drivers in the capital to act as a transport service for NHS workers similar to that being offered in other European countries fighting the coronavirus outbreak.
Boris Johnson was responding to a question made by the Conservative Broxbourne MP, Charles Walker, who highlighted the "army of black cab drivers in and around London itching to get involved like the Spitfires in 1940".
During Prime Minister’s Questions on 25 March 2020, Charles Walker MP added: “Prime Minister, can we find a way if we need to get doctors and nurses safely across London to use these black cab drivers, not on the meter but perhaps on a contracted basis?”
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, responded saying: “My honourable friend makes a superb point and indeed that has already been raised in our considerations. The black cab drivers are a fantastic service, they are an unsung service and I believe they can certainly rise to this challenge.”