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Mixed messages over mandatory face coverings for taxi and private hire drivers and passengers

Taxi and private hire drivers “should” wear face coverings from next Monday, though private hire vehicles and taxis are not included in new Department for Transport rules that make it mandatory for public transport staff and passengers to wear face coverings.

In response to the new rules, Transport for London (TfL) said all taxi and private hire drivers should wear face coverings while working from Monday, June 15.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps last week announced it would mandatory for passengers to wear face coverings when using public transport in England. But DfT officials later confirmed this does not cover occupants of taxis and private hire vehicles.

Graham Robinson, taxi and private hire general manager at TfL, issued a notice stating said drivers should follow the guidelines: “While the Government advice doesn’t explicitly cover the use of taxi and private hire services, this guidance is intended to mirror the arrangements put in place on public transport,” he wrote.

The DfT said it was up to taxi and private hire operators to implement measures to protect drivers and passengers – including refusing to carry passengers who refuse to wear a face covering.

The DfT said it was up to local licensing authorities to “consider ways in which they can work with their licensees to support all reasonable measures to protect taxi and PHV drivers and passengers”.

Meanwhile TfL has “advised” taxi and PHV passengers to wear face coverings when travelling, and backed up the DfT view that drivers could refuse to carry passengers who refuse to wear a face covering. TfL has also advised operators to warn pre-booked customers in advance of the face covering requirement.

Black Cab drivers feel they should be exempt from the rule as their vehicles have permanent partitions fitted. Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association wrote to members, saying it was “perfectly reasonable” to expect Private Hire drivers and their passengers, to wear masks in an un-partitioned car, but it was “totally unnecessary, overly burdensome and restrictive in a purpose built vehicle, with a partition, and where social distancing is possible”.

He added: “If members who are in the higher risk categories, or others prefer to wear a mask, that's fine, but to make it mandatory is unnecessary.”

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