Bus drivers are dying of coronavirus in the capital – and Transport for London (TfL) has commissioned an urgent inquiry to find out why.
A total of 33 bus workers – including 29 drivers – have died of Covid-19 so far, the network said.
Now TfL has asked University College London to launch an independent review of the deaths.
It comes ten days after unions called for tougher safety measures in response to Office for National Statistics data revealing the risk to key workers.
Male bus drivers had a death rate of 26.4 per 100,000 – higher than male shop workers with 19.8.
The first stage of the Centre for Health Equity study, due to finish within weeks, will ask if TfL is doing everything possible to protect bus workers.
The network is now cleaning buses with the same anti-viral spray used in hospitals, giving out hand sanitiser and providing face masks for workers.
It has banned front-door boarding on buses and put a film over the holes in driver cabins to keep staff safe from infection.
But bus drivers previously told the Local Democracy Service these measures are not happening across the board – and they still feel at risk.
The second stage of the UCL research will assess how job risk has contributed to the number of bus drivers dying – TfL says this stage will take three to four months.
The exact scope of phase two has not been finalised – but bus drivers have warned that long hours and exhausting shift rotas have left them feeling vulnerable to the virus.
Last year, a report by Loughborough University found one in six drivers had fallen asleep at the wheel in the last year.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said bus worker deaths were “personal” because his father was a bus driver.
“The transport workers who have lost their lives during this pandemic are constantly in my thoughts,” he added.
“It is with them in mind that I will continue to do absolutely everything I can to keep staff and passengers safe.”
The Mayor urged Londoners to “do their bit” for transport staff by avoiding public transport unless absolutely necessary.
But some bus drivers are worried that the UCL review will make little difference.
“We all know that the review will take years until it’s finalised,” warned one South London driver.
“We’ve seen it in the past with Grenfell and other inquiries, so this doesn’t wash with me.”
Another driver said he doubted the study would lead to significant change – because last year’s study on driver fatigue did “mostly nothing” for working conditions.