Unite, the union which represents over 20,000 London bus workers, has given its qualified support to the announcement by Transport for London (TfL) that from tomorrow (Saturday 30 May) there will be a phased return to front door entry on London buses.
Only buses that have been fitted with new screens, developed in conjunction with experts at University College London (UCL) and that completely seal the driver’s cab, will return to front door entry and should be on the roads of the capital.
In a further effort to build worker and passenger confidence, Unite shop stewards and safety reps will inspect and clear each bus before front door loading is re-introduced.
In addition to the phased return of front door loading, TfL is also introducing reduced capacity on buses to help ensure social distancing. Double deckers will be allowed to carry 20 passengers while single deckers will carry between six and 10 customers. There will be some allowance made for families and household groups travelling together.
Crucially, the seating exclusion zone around the driver will remain in place.
The decision to close the front doors on London buses was taken following intensive lobbying from Unite and was seen as a vital way to protect London bus drivers from being exposed to Covid-19 while a strategy for the complete sealing of cabs was developed.
Since the pandemic began at least 33 London bus workers have died of the disease.
Driver safety paramount
Unite officer for London buses, John Murphy said: “The safety of London bus drivers and workers is absolutely critical. Bus workers have tragically lost their lives during this pandemic and our determination is to make sure that no other family endures this heartache.
“Unite has been working closely with experts at UCL, TfL and London bus operators to ensure that the return to front door loading does not adversely affect driver safety.
“We want to make it clear to the workforce and the travelling public that the return to front door loading will be gradually phased in with no vehicle opening its front door until it has been thoroughly checked by a Unite representative.
“The reduction in the maximum capacity on buses is an important safety measure that Unite has been calling for because it protects passengers by helping to ensure they can socially distance.
“Unite will continue to lobby and work with employers and TfL to ensure that all bus workers are full protected at work, and that passengers and the wider public are cared for.”