Passengers using some London buses will now only be able to board through the middle doors as part of efforts to protect drivers during the coronavirus emergency.
Nine bus workers have died in the capital after contracting COVID-19 since the outbreak began. Drivers have complained that protection measures in place are inadequate and trade union Unite has called for improvements.
While most buses in London have both front and middle doors, passengers usually using the front ones for boarding.
A middle-door boarding trial will take place over the next four weeks on several Abellio routes operating out of Walworth bus garage in south London. Two of these routes serve hospitals.
TfL said the four-week trial using middle-door only boarding was in addition to other measures such as enhanced cleaning. Other safety measures being to be across the network include introducing signs to discourage people from sitting near the driver and adding an extra layer of protection to the clear screen that separates the driver from passengers.
Claire Mann, Director of Bus Operations at TfL, said: “London’s hard-working transport workers are making a heroic effort at the frontline of the fight against this pandemic, and it is only right we consider everything we can to protect them.
"We’ve already delivered many other enhanced safety measures and by trialling middle-door only boarding on buses we can gain the information we need to see if we can further improve safety on London’s buses. Most Londoners can do their bit to protect our bus colleagues and other critical workers by remembering: stay home, don’t travel, save lives.”
Transport for London (TfL) said it has worked with both Unite and bus operators to improve safety for workers.
However, Unite's regional secretary Pete Kavanagh called for more action. "TfL needs to instruct all bus companies to lock front doors with passengers no longer entering the bus next to the driver with immediate effect. To improve social distancing, which will protect drivers and passengers alike, the maximum number of bus passengers must also be reduced," he said.
The number of people using buses in the capital has fallen by about 85% compared to this time last year.
A total of 14 public transport workers have died in the capital after contracting COVID-19.
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