Updated: Mar 16, 2020
London’s taxi drivers are being tipped to fill the transport void as safety conscious travellers take growing precautionary measures in the wake of the global coronavirus outbreak.
The move away from mass transport options, like the bus and tube networks, comes following concerns around the well publicised possible implications of the COVID-19 outbreak first originating in Wuhan, China.
With the UK close to entering the ‘Delay’ stage of the pandemic, the London black cab is fast becoming the vehicle of choice due to a number of key safety features. The delay phase could see government officials and medical experts calling for more “social distancing”. This will mean limiting our interactions with each other, especially in large numbers, in a bid to delay the virus spreading.
All of London’s taxis have a driver partition separating the cabbie from passengers. Card payment options in all taxis mean no cash needs to pass hands between either parties.
Each taxi is also purpose built to be a taxi. This means the vehicle is designed to be easily cleaned using hygienic materials on grab rails, seats and flooring.
Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), claimed: “Drivers are reporting an increase in customers switching from private hire vehicles.”
McNamara added: “Passengers are telling drivers they value the protection and like the segregation provided by the cab’s glass partition screen.”
Cabbies have been taking precautionary measures since the early detection of the virus that has so far killed three UK citizens. As of Sunday morning (8 March), 23,513 people have been tested for the virus in the UK of which 273 were confirmed as positive.
Regulators Transport for London (TfL) gave taxi drivers advice on the matter in February, saying:
Always carry tissues and use them to catch coughs and sneezes
Dispose of used tissues in the bin as soon as possible
Wash hands with soap and water, or use sanitiser gel, to kill germs.
Graham Robinson, TfL’s Interim General Manager Taxi and Private Hire, added last month: “We advise all licensees, including taxi and private hire drivers, to follow these simple and sensible steps at all times and particularly in the wake of the outbreak of Coronavirus.
“We would also encourage licensees to take sensible and routine precautionary measures such a cleaning surfaces regularly with sanitising wipes or spray to get rid of germs.
“As ever, Taxi drivers should consider regularly cleaning card payment devices. Licensees who share a taxi or private hire vehicle should consider regularly cleaning the steering wheel and instruments.”