Last reviewed 29 July 2020

Transport for London (TfL) has responded to the publication of an independent review by UCL's Institute of Health Equity into the tragic deaths of bus drivers during the pandemic.

It had asked the academics to explore the pattern of infection with, and deaths from, coronavirus in the London bus worker population to inform recommendations on any additional occupational health measures that should be put in place to protect them.

TfL's Chief Safety, Health and Environment Officer, Lilli Matson, said: “We have been devastated by the tragic deaths of our colleagues during this pandemic. We commissioned this independent study so we could urgently understand what more we can do to reduce the risk of others contracting coronavirus.”

Available at content.tfl.gov.uk/initial-assessment-of-london-bus-driver-mortality-from-covid-19.pdf, the report notes that:

  • many of the London bus drivers who died from coronavirus were suffering with underlying health conditions particularly high blood pressure

  • among those who died, most stopped work in the 10 days either side of lockdown on 23 March, suggesting most became infected before lockdown; after lockdown, death rates came down among drivers reinforcing evidence that it was an effective measure in saving lives

  • a high proportion of drivers who died had a number of personal characteristics which enhanced their risk to coronavirus, such as their ethnicity and living in areas with above average levels of deprivation in London boroughs with the highest coronavirus death rates in April 2020.

From 17 March, TfL started funding enhanced sick pay for bus staff who were suffering from coronavirus symptoms or had to self-isolate for up to 14 days because someone in their household had symptoms.

This was to ensure drivers did not feel forced to attend work for financial reasons when they should not do so. This arrangement remains in place.

TfL also wrote to all of London's bus operators urging them “to do the right thing” by vulnerable employees and, like TfL, provide sufficient financial support so that they could minimise any exposure to coronavirus.

A full copy of TfL's response to the recommendations in the UCL report can be found at content.tfl.gov.uk.