Transport for London (TfL) has been branded “institutionally unsafe” by a former board member.
Michael Liebreich, who served on the TfL board between 2012 and 2018, claimed the body’s structure “places safety a distant second priority”.
Mr Liebreich, who has campaigned for the Conservative party, made the claims to the head of the review into coronavirus deaths among bus workers.
A spokesperson for the mayor of London called the claims “entirely untrue”.
“The safety of passengers and our heroic transport staff is TfL’s absolute priority,” they said
“This has been demonstrated throughout its response to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Since the outbreak of coronavirus bus drivers appeared to have been working in “manifestly unsafe conditions”, Mr Liebreich said in an open letter.
Contracting out bus and tram services “puts extreme pressure on operators to deliver services on time or lose money”, he added.
Last year a survey of bus drivers, commissioned by TfL, found 17% had fallen asleep while driving at least once in the past 12 months.
In his letter, Mr Liebreich called on Prof Sir Michael Marmot to investigate whether TfL had followed Public Health England’s coronavirus guidance.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) has not been given to TfL frontline staff, but they have been offered face masks.
Sir Michael, the director of UCL Institute of Health Equity, is leading the inquiry into TfL’s response during the coronavirus pandemic.
TFL said it had “delivered a range of measures to improve safety”.
This includes an anti-viral cleaning regime, applying a protective film to bus driver cabs and preventing passengers sitting next to drivers, mayor Sadiq Khan’s office said.
From Saturday passengers will have to tap in at the front of buses to pay for rides, a measure which had been briefly suspended during the coronavirus lockdown to protect drivers.
Conservative candidate for Mayor of London Shaun Bailey called Mr Leibreich’s comments “spot on”.
“When this crisis has passed, the mayor will have to answer many difficult questions about his handling of this crisis,” Mr Bailey said.