London’s 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”.
Throughout the pandemic, TFL has worked alongside the sector to make services as safe as possible for passengers and drivers. 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 and private hire sector plays 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 that TFL is providing will help to boost the taxi and private hire trades in a tough and challenging time.
This builds on the guidance TFL has issued in the pandemic that includes advice on how drivers can access the Government’s Self Employment Scheme, which is a grant of up to 80 per cent of average monthly profits, how to access other services, such as those for mental health and wellbeing and how to work safely during the pandemic. TFL also continues to provide financial assistance for taxi drivers wanting to take their older, polluting vehicles off the road with grants totalling more than £30 million already paid out and a further £7,500 grant available towards the cost of purchasing a new zero emission capable taxi.
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 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.”
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.”
Luca Tamagni, Marketing Director Dettol Europe, said: “We are supported and kept ‘on the move’ by so many different, wonderful transport services in London. That’s why, as the UK’s leading disinfectant brand Dettol is passionate to help support taxi and private hire drivers continue to do their job. By making Dettol available to so many more people throughout the transport system, we hope to continue to help reduce the spread of the virus.”
In the wider drive to keep people safe, TFL and the police are running the Safer Travel at Night campaign again this year. The campaign reminds customers that if a minicab is not booked they shouldn’t get in. It also involves advice on how to safely get a taxi or booked minicab home.