London Dial-a-Ride service should be suspended during COVID-19 outbreak

The Unite union, which represents 330 members employed on Transport for London’s Dial-a-Ride service, is calling for the service to be temporarily suspended during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Tragic death

The call to suspend the service follows the death of Dial-a-Ride driver and Unite member, Patrick David, who passed away from COVID-19 last weekend. Mr David had worked for Dial-a-Ride for over 17 years.

The service is specifically for elderly and disabled residents in London who have mobility issues and who could not otherwise use public transport; passengers are collected directly from their homes.

Attempt to minimise risk

Transport for London (TfL) has worked in conjunction with Unite to minimise the risk to the drivers. This includes introducing measures such as only one passenger per vehicle at any one time and drivers now being provided with sufficient PPE for each customer.

However, as drivers also undertake the role of “loader” and help passengers onto vehicles and then fasten them in, it is impossible for social distancing to be achieved at all times.

Given the death of Mr David and the vulnerable nature of the passengers that Dial-a-Ride transports, Unite’s membership at the organisation believes that the risk to passengers and drivers is so great that the service should be suspended and only restarted when risks have been substantially reduced.

Work with councils

The union is calling upon TfL to work with local authorities to ensure that the elderly and disabled service users are supported through the many community initiatives that deliver food and medicines to vulnerable people during this crisis.

Following Mr David’s death Unite approached TfL to suspend the service but that proposal was rejected.

Thoughts with family

Unite regional officer Simon McCartney said: “The thoughts of everyone at Unite and our members at Dial-a-Ride are with Patrick David’s family at their terrible time.

“Given the tragic death of Patrick David and the impossibility for drivers to socially distance from passengers and the very vulnerable nature of service users, Unite regrettably believes the Dial-a-Ride service should be suspended.

 “This was a very difficult call for our members to make as many of them have dedicated their lives to working for Dial-a-Ride and they appreciate the service is a lifeline for many of its users.

 “Unite believes that the service should be suspended until it is safe to resume.

 “It is hoped that TfL recognises the concerns of our members, agrees to suspend the service and works with local authorities to ensure that these elderly and disabled passengers are supported through the many community initiatives that deliver food and medicines to vulnerable people during this crisis.  

 “Once the service is suspended, Unite is committed to working with TfL to introduce measures to get it up and operating again as quickly as possible.”

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