More than 1,200 buses across London have been fitted with an "extra layer of protection" for drivers via a new air conditioning system which changes the way air is pushed around their cabs.

The prototype changes the air conditioning recirculating systems inside Transport for London buses into units that circulate fresh air into the driver’s cab from outside the vehicle.

Commissioned by Transport for London (TfL) and taking expert advice from University College London (UCL), Grayson Thermal Systems (GTS) came up with a method to protect bus drivers against Covid-19.

Since the work was commisioned, more than 1,200 buses have been converted over a two-month period, joining a raft of other measures taken by TfL to protect drivers and passengers from the virus.

A total of 45 TfL workers have been reported to have died from coronavirus, and at least 30 of these were bus drivers. A review into these deaths was announced in May.

READ MORE: TfL makes emotional tribute to 34 transport worker 'heroes' who've died from Covid-19

Tom Cunnington, TfL’s Head of Bus Business Development, said: “We always put the safety of our bus drivers first and making changes to the driver cabs, along with other measures like our enhanced cleaning regime, has played a role in minimising risk of infection.

“By working with Grayson Thermal Systems, UCL and bus operators, we were able to act quickly and add an extra layer of protection to the cabs to prevent the air from the passenger section of the bus being recirculated into the driver cab and ensure our drivers breathe the safest air possible.”

Six centres were set-up across London and a fifteen-strong team of engineers from GTS and Alexander Dennis were trained up for the project, the latter proving a perfect fit as over 1000 of the buses were their models.

News Shopper:

A specialist scaffolding gantry was designed and built by partner London Network Scaffolding so experts could work on the roof of the vehicles whilst being completely secure. They completed a weekly inspection process on all structures to ensure safety was paramount.

Ian Hateley, Group Aftermarket Director at GTS, explained: “The loss of London bus drivers to the pandemic is tragic and we were pleased to be part of a solution to build on TfL’s existing safety measures to reduce the potential spread of the virus.

“We looked at our existing air conditioning systems and developed a way of converting them so that they created positive pressure in the enclosed driver cabin, forcing existing air out and replacing it with air from outside the bus.

“Now complete, the modification gives in excess of 100 air changes per hour within the driver cabin and ensures that a wider initiative to seal the driver cabin away from passengers is enhanced, as air is no longer moving from the entrance into the cab area.”