Severn Trent using taxi drivers to investigate water leaks
Severn Trent has been using taxi drivers to investigate water leaks in its pipe network in a bid to save money.
The company, which provides water to 4.3 million homes across the West Midlands, has admitted to sending out drivers to around 50 different leaks rather than technicians as a cheaper way to get live video footage.
But GMB Union has criticised the move saying it has "huge safety implications" for customers, drivers and the general public.
The union says customers have not been impressed with the ‘Virtual Fieldworker Programme’ – dubbed ‘Uber leaks’.
One complained: “Amazed you sent a black cab taxi to investigate [a] leak.”
Stuart Fegan, from GMB, said: “When I found out Severn Trent are using taxi drivers to investigate leaks I thought it must be a joke.
“But no one is laughing – this has got huge safety implications for customers, the drivers and the public at large.
“Water engineers are highly trained specialists – they can spot if water is contaminated and if water produces a risk to the public. I doubt most taxi drivers can.
“They also don’t know how to pin-point leaks - meaning repair crews can dig unnecessary holes in the highway.
“And how is someone going to feel after they report a leak, expecting a Severn Trent worker to attend with a uniform and the necessary training and a taxi driver turns up. They’d think it was a hoax call.
"Have Severn Trent consulted with its customers about this practice or discussed it with the regulator or HSE?
“Severn Trent needs to see sense and cancel the Uber leaks programme immediately."
A spokesman for Severn Trent said: “We’ve carried out a series of two-week trials to find new, more efficient ways to find and fix leaks.
“This trial has looked at around 50 small leaks where we’ve used taxi drivers rather than technicians as a cheaper way to get live video footage of the leak so our engineers at base can assess the correct response and dispatch the appropriate team to fix it.”
Bottled water given to vulnerable and tankers provide extra water as Severn Trent says demand has risen by 300 million litres in last week