Addison Lee and Uber to install partition screens in cabs
Addison Lee and Uber are to install partition screens in vehicles to protect staff and passengers from infection with coronavirus, after new data earlier this week revealed that male taxi drivers and chauffeurs are among those at highest risk of death from the disease.
London’s largest private hire car operator, Addison Lee, claims to be the first in the industry to make the move, announcing that it would be fitting screens to all 4,000 vehicles in its fleet at a likely cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
At the same time, the ride-hailing company and app Uber will on Thursday unveil plans to install partitions in 400 of its drivers’ cars in Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham, in order to “build a better understanding of how people can travel from A to B as safely as possible”.
Three drivers with Addison Lee, which carries more than 10 million London passengers every year, have died of coronavirus. And three Uber drivers have been confirmed to have died from Covid-19 in the capital, but there have been reports of several more.
The dividing screens in Uber’s pilot will be installed by the AA motoring group, which will also deep-clean and sanitise every car as part of the installation process, in line with advice and guidance issued by Newcastle, Durham and Sunderland city councils.
Commercial and private drivers of passenger vehicles have been among the groups worst affected by the disease, because of the difficulties of social distancing in a confined space.
New data released on Monday by the Office for National Statistics covering England and Wales revealed that the highest rate of deaths was among male security guards (45.7 deaths per 100,000), followed by 36.4 deaths per 100,000 among male taxi drivers and chauffeurs.
But as commuters return to work this week as the lockdown eases and are advised to avoid public transport, demand for private hire services in major City and town centres is likely to soar.
London’s estimated 21,000 black taxis are already fitted with partitions between drivers and passengers, but the majority of minicabs in London do not have dividing safety screens installed.
Work on installing the flame-retardant, shatter-proof screens by Addison Lee begins next week and the fleet is expected to be ready by the end of May. The design has been shared with Transport for London (TfL).
Liam Griffin, Addison Lee’s chief executive, said: “If London is to gradually get moving again as the government adjusts its advice, it is vital to ensure that the public transport network is not overwhelmed, and that people have a clean and safe way to travel as they go back to work. This represents an enormous challenge for policymakers, businesses and commuters in the capital.
“Private hire vehicle (PHV) passenger services with strong safety and environmental standards are vital to ensuring individual car users do not swamp London’s roads, as has been seen in other countries where lockdowns have lifted.”
The company is also using an electrostatic antimicrobial cleanse of vehicles and facilitating social distancing by encouraging passengers to use the rear seats of its seven-seater vehicles.
In partnership with Unilever, Uber will also distribute hygiene kits to drivers and couriers who use the Uber platform across the UK, along with 3m protective face masks to its drivers and couriers.
Jamie Heywood, regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe at Uber, said: “The safety of the riders and drivers who use the Uber app is our No 1 priority. For weeks we’ve been urging people to stay home and make essential trips only. As people start to think about moving again, we hope our pilot in the north-east of England will help bring about a greater understanding of how to get people from A to B as safely as possible.”