London’s taxi and private hire drivers are to receive additional support from Transport for London (TfL), with 1.5 million face masks and 30,000 bottles of Dettol hand sanitiser being provided to drivers as the national lockdown lifts and more customers begin to travel.
The support will help give Londoners and visitors to the capital more confidence to plan safe journeys, at a time when people are starting to celebrate Christmas.
The sanitiser and face masks will be distributed to drivers at selected London Underground and other car parks spread across the capital. They are part of a package designed to help drivers guard against coronavirus and look after passengers as well as themselves. As part of this, TfL has created short educational videos for drivers that provide guidance on how to clean their vehicle after each time a passenger has been safely dropped off. Drivers will also receive a sticker to display in the vehicle to demonstrate that the driver is “Covid prepared”.
As part of the effort to keep everyone safe, passengers are required by law to wear a face covering at all times when in a licensed vehicle unless they are exempt. TfL has also made clear to drivers that they are also expected to wear a face covering at all times when in a licensed vehicle unless they too are exempt.
The taxi industry will play a vital role in moving people around London during the festive period, especially those with accessibility needs or passengers with large bags of shopping. The resources provided will be seen as a small boost to help the taxi and private hire trades in a tough and challenging time.
The masks are being distributed from 7 December. Face coverings and sanitiser will be given out on a first come, first served basis. Throughout the pandemic, TfL has issued guidance to help keep drivers and passengers safe. It has included advice on wearing face coverings, leaving windows open for ventilation, keeping a safe distance between the driver and passenger and the need to wash or sanitise hands regularly.
Helen Chapman, TfL’s Director of Licensing, Regulation and Charging, said: “We know that the pandemic has been tough for taxi and private hire drivers, which is why we want to do all we can to help them prosper as restrictions are eased. We are providing this additional support to help boost the industry in the coming weeks, reassuring customers that vehicles are as safe and clean as they possibly can be. We will continue to provide up-to-date advice and guidance for drivers on how to keep themselves safe and what support is available for them in these difficult times.”
Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: “Black cabs and private hire vehicles are a vital part of our city’s transport network and TfL and City Hall are determined to do all we can to help drivers. By providing free face masks and hand sanitiser, and stickers to clearly show drivers are ‘Covid prepared’, we will help boost trade in the important few weeks leading up to Christmas.”
Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said: “The licensed taxi trade in London has been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic. Taxi drivers need all the support they can get, at what continues to be an extremely challenging time.
“This is therefore a positive initiative, which should help to demonstrate to the public that taxi drivers are taking every possible precaution to keep their passengers safe, whilst continuing to provide the world class service London’s black cabs are known for. We hope that as a result and with lockdown now over and restrictions easing somewhat, that more people will choose to use taxis safely.”
Steve Garelick, GMB Organiser, said: “GMB Union are delighted to learn of this initiative giving protection to drivers and the public alike. This extra support is heartening at such a precarious time for the taxi and private hire trades that have been decimated by the pandemic.”