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The independent London newspaper

Memorial plan for heroic TfL workers

Drivers who lost lives to Covid to be remembered

15 October, 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Bus driver Emeka Nyack-Ihenacho died in April 2020

TRANSPORT chiefs have unveiled plans to create a memorial for workers who lost their lives to Covid as they continued to keep the system running during the virus lockdown.

The Tribune campaigned for protection for bus drivers and Underground workers amid concerns that they were putting their lives at risk and claims that there were not enough safety measures in place. Face coverings did not become compulsory until later in the crisis.

Two bus drivers working in Islington died after contracting the coronavirus. Emeka Nyack-Ihenacho, 36, who drove the No 4 bus through Islington out of the Holloway depot, and Win Tin Soe, 61, who had been behind the wheel of the No 46 bus for 18 years, died in April last year.

Anne Nyack, Mr Ihenacho’s mother, spoke to the Tribune last year, calling for a public inquiry into why more was not done earlier to protect drivers, adding the government should set up a compensation scheme for bereaved families.

Their deaths prompted a campaign to improve bus driver safety across the capital and to be considered frontline workers. In total across London, 98 transport workers died after contracting Covid.

Transport for London (TfL) released designs for a new permanent memorial to London’s transport workers who have lost their lives to the virus.

The Tribune’s front page on April 10, 2020

The new memorial will be in Braham Street, Aldgate. The space will contain a plaque paying tribute to London’s transport workers as well as benches and a cherry blossom tree.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I am devastated that 98 London transport workers have died from Covid, and each and every one of them will always be in my thoughts. As the son of a bus driver, this is deeply personal to me, and I can’t help but think how it could have been my dad or his colleagues or friends.

“I hope that the new permanent memorial in the middle of our city will be a place where those that have lost loved ones will find solace, and be a reminder of the heroic key workers who have made it possible for us to come through the pandemic by keeping our city moving.”

Andy Byford, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “I would like to express my sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of all transport workers across London who have sadly lost their lives to coronavirus. Their tragic loss is devastating for us all, we owe them our gratitude and this memorial will ensure that we never forget them.

“I also want to personally thank all frontline staff on our bus, tube and rail services who kept our city moving through the dark period through which London has come, the maintenance teams who kept the network safe, the taxi and private hire drivers who helped people continue to attend hospital appointments during the pandemic and all the cleaners who ensured the network is clean and safe to use. Without you, the city could not have got through the pandemic.”

Following feedback from the families of those who died, TfL aims to submit a planning application to Tower Hamlets Council for the memorial with a view to unveiling it by summer 2022.

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