UCL Consultants Ltd


UCL's Institute of Health Equity academics to advise TfL on independent review into COVID 19

9 June 2020

Transport for London (TfL) has asked UCL's Institute of Health Equity to provide independent advice as part of a forthcoming two-part study to better understand the pattern of coronavirus infections and deaths among London’s bus workers.

TfL logo
  • This Support comes as part of a forthcoming two-part study that will help better understand the pattern of coronavirus infections and deaths among bus workers.
  • The findings will help inform recommendations on any possible additional measures that should be put in place to protect these key workers. 
  • Actions taken will build on the range of measures already implemented, including a rigorous cleaning regime and social distancing measures

The studies are being commissioned following the tragic deaths of 33 colleagues, including 29 drivers, among bus operators within London and will ensure that TfL is taking all possible measures to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of those working to keep the bus network moving.

The first part of the study, into which UCL Institute of Health Equity are providing advice, and supported by UCL Consultants, will review and advise on TfL’s operational response during the pandemic. It will examine the range of measures that have been introduced to protect bus workers, including the rigorous cleaning regime in place across the network and social distancing measures for both members of staff and customers. This work will take place within a matter of weeks, enabling TfL to quickly undertake any improvements to current measures as necessary.

UCL is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 universities in the world, with more than 41,500 students from 150 countries and more than 12,500 staff pursuing academic excellent. The UCL Institute of Health Equity was established in 2011 and is led by Professor Sir Michael Marmot who has led research groups on health inequalities for more than 40 years and chairs the Commission on Equity and Health Inequalities in the Americas.

The second part of the study, which will be commissioned shortly, will examine the potential contribution that occupation exposure plays in differences in infection and death rates between London’s frontline transport workers and the general London population, by adjusting for a range of risk factors including age, gender, ethnicity, economic status and non-occupational exposures. This will take around three to four months and will help inform recommendations on any additional measures that should be put in place to protect these key workers. The full scope of the study are still being finalised. 

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The transport workers who have lost their lives during this pandemic are constantly in my thoughts, and it is with them in mind that I will continue to do absolutely everything I can to keep staff and passengers safe. TfL is seeking independent advice from UCL Institute of Health Equity to make sure we better understand the impact of coronavirus on our bus workers and to ensure we are taking every possible measure to protect our heroic staff. As the son of a bus driver, this is deeply personal to me. 

“I urge all Londoners to do their bit to keep our transport workers safe by only using public transport if you have no other alternative. It is crucial that the demand on services is as low as possible to enable social distancing for the safety of both staff and passengers.”

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Director, UCL Institute of Health Equity said: “It is absolutely critical to understand the high level of coronavirus infection and deaths in London’s bus drivers. They are among our key frontline workers who are keeping society functioning during this Covid-19 pandemic.”

Lilli Matson, Chief Safety, Health & Environment Officer at TfL, said: “We are all deeply saddened that colleagues working in the transport industry have died as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This is why we are working with UCL’s Institute of Health Equity, so that we can better understand the pattern of deaths and sickness caused by the coronavirus and do all that we can to limit its impact.

“In order to keep our city as safe as we can, we continue to ask customers to stay at home unless they need to carry out an essential journey. If you must travel, we urge you to do so sustainably such as by walking or cycling where possible.”

  • Throughout the pandemic TfL has been closely following PHE advice and is continuing to do so, working closely with organisations like the London Scientific Technical Advisory Cell (STAC), which has produced guidance for transport operators on reducing risk from the coronavirus. TfL has asked UCL to provide independent advice following internal analysis of data.
  • TfL is using a rigorous cleaning regime to kill the virus across all transport services using new, anti-viral fluid in stations, depots, bus garages, trains and on buses, including inside the driver's cab. Extensive daily cleaning takes place across the network, ensuring that 'touch points' on buses (including steering wheel, poles, doors and handles) are treated with antiviral cleaner (as used elsewhere in TfL) every night after the regular cleaning is completed. Bus garages and rest rooms are similarly treated daily.
  • TfL has also introduced enhanced social distancing measures after working closely with the trade union Unite. This includes signage asking customers not to sit in the seats near the driver's cab, improvements to the protective screen that shields drivers and regular announcements to reinforce the need to keep a safe space from others.

About UCL Institute of Health Equity

Our mission is nothing less than a fairer, healthier society. The Institute of Health Equity was established in 2011 and is led by Professor Sir Michael Marmot at University College London. The aim is to develop and support approaches to health equity and build on work that has assessed, measured  and implemented approaches to tackle inequalities in health - works such as the ‘WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health’ and ‘Fair Society Healthy Lives’ (The Marmot Review).

Since 2011, the Institute has led and collaborated on works to address the Social Determinants of Health and improve health equity. These works include the PAHO Commission on Equity and Health Inequalities in the Americas, a Review of Social Determinants of Health and the Health Divide for the WHO European Region, Indicators for Local Authorities in EnglandHealthy Places, Healthy LivesSocial Determinants of Mental Healthlocal practice resources for public health.