London's private hire drivers warned not to rely on makeshift covid-19 screens for protection

15 July 2020, 12:05

A non-approved covid-19 protective screen in a London private hire car
A non-approved covid-19 protective screen in a London private hire car. Picture: LBC News

By Philip McDonald

Private hire drivers in London have been ordered to take down makeshift protective coronavirus screens or pay thousands of pounds to have them licensed.

LBC can reveal that Transport For London has issued drivers with a warning that barriers will need a full safety inspection at a cost of £2,150.

TFL says it has worked with testing facilities to develop an assessment process so that screens do not affect the overall safety of the vehicle.

One of the firms carrying out assessments is HORIBA MIRA. Drivers pay £900 for a desktop review of partition screen material specification, and a further £1,250 for an assessment of a screen that is made of a material already "approved" by TFL.

Drivers have been warned not to rely on homemade or makeshift screens
Drivers have been warned not to rely on homemade or makeshift screens. Picture: LBC News

But LBC has learned that many drivers have been putting up their own makeshift screens because they feel they've been left with no other option.

Tariq, a private hire driver based in London, says he's had to buy a cheap plastic sheet from eBay because there is no official TFL screen available.

He told LBC: "Private hire drivers have been so desperate to protect themselves and their customers that they've had to resort to using cling film or going to B&Q or their local pound shop, getting a plastic sheet, then putting it on with double sided tape, it's not right.

"We would rather have an approved screen by TFL to fit.

"I wouldn't mind paying £250, even £300 because if it's going to protect me from coronavirus then it's worth it.

"I'm pleading with the mayor and with TFL to help keep your drivers and the public safe and allow us to get a screen.

"For myself, it's the equivalent of a mask and we've all seen in the last couple of days just how important they are.

"Help private drivers to get London moving again, so we don't have to resort to these makeshift screens that we're having to go towards in order to protect ourselves."

Transport for London's Director of Licensing, Regulation and Charging has said "the safety of anyone travelling in a taxi or private hire vehicle is our number-one priority".

Helen Chapman said: "Screens that don't meet national regulations and our own requirements could be a fire risk or present a safety risk to passengers.

"We completely understand why some drivers and companies wish to install screens, and private hire operators can have a screen assessed for a particular make and model of vehicle by independent test centres.

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"Once approved there are no further testing costs for anyone to use those screens with those specific vehicle models.

"But until we have assurances that the screens won't be a safety risk we can't approve them.

"As a further safety measure, all passengers and drivers should wear a face covering during their journey.

"A temporary partition has recently been approved, which is manufactured by Toyota and fits in the vast majority of its vehicle models.

"Toyota has demonstrated to us that its product is safe and it has a robust process for certifying the partitions that will be installed.

“Toyota vehicles make up a significant proportion of the private hire market."

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