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Gloucestershire Business News

Safer taxi journeys set to be approved

Travelling in Cheltenham licensed taxis or private hire vehicles is set to become safer as the authority's cabinet is expected to approve a new policy on partition screens in the vehicles.

On July 7, Cheltenham Borough Council's cabinet will consider a proposed policy to allow taxi and private hire drivers to install partition screens in their vehicles, as a means to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission between themselves and their passengers.

Whilst there is no evidence to suggest that a partition screen between drivers and passengers will provide 100 per cent protection against transmission of the coronavirus, there is evidence to show that the use of physical barriers is effective in lowering the risk of infection and spread of the coronavirus.

The proposed policy that Cabinet will consider next week, is part of the authority's recovery work for Cheltenham. There is recognition that the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly severe on the livelihoods of hackney carriage (taxi) and private hire licence holders. A policy that will allow taxi and private hire drivers to make journeys safer will provide the public with reassurance and provide confidence that measures are being taken to try and keep them safe when taking a taxi or private hire vehicle.

It is also designed to provide taxi and private hire drivers with the confidence they need to return to work. Office of National Statistics data has shown that licensed drivers have a greater risk of mortality relating to COVID-19. The ability to install properly designed and installed partition screens, together with other safety measures such as good hygiene and the appropriate use of PPE, are measures being encouraged by the authority to support licensed drivers.

Councillor Andrew McKinlay, cabinet member for development and safety, said: "The council is committed to supporting the town's recovery.

"The principal concern of the council is the safety and wellbeing of the public. This policy, if adopted, will make taxi journeys safer for people and should give greater confidence to people wanting to visit the town, that steps are being taken to better protect their health and wellbeing.

"The draft policy will not impose a mandatory requirement to install partition screens in taxis, recognising that a flexible approach is appropriate, particularly since there is no formal Government guidance on this matter. However, members of the public can exercise their right of choice if they would prefer to take a taxis fitted with a screen, instead of automatically taking the one at the front of a taxi queue."

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