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British Water Company Sends Uber and Taxi Drivers to Investigate Leaks

A British water company is conducting 2-week trials involving Uber and taxi drivers instead of certified technicians, in an effort to cut down costs and reduce water leakages. Its efforts have fallen foul with the unions.
British water company is sending Uber and taxi drivers to appraise water leaks, instead of proper water engineers 11 photos
Photo: venturebeat.com
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Severn Trent, which is based in Coventry and covers the area from Peak District to Gloucestershire, is among the firms that water regulator Ofwat has listed for failing to meet water leakage reduction targets. Under pressure to meet said targets, the company has come up with a novel plan of investigating reports of small leaks.

Instead of sending technicians to appraise the situation, it’s sending Uber and taxi drivers. They show up at the property in question and take photos or provide live video footage to Severn Trent, which then establishes what technicians to send, if any.

The GMB union calls the initiative ridiculous – almost funny if it weren’t so potentially dangerous, the BBC reports. For one, drivers are trained for driving, not for evaluating water leaks, even if they’re only supposed to hold up a phone.

“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,” the union’s national officer Stuart Fegan tells the publication.

“[Water engineers are] highly trained specialists [who could spot] if water is contaminated and if water produces a risk to the public. I doubt most taxi drivers can. 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,” Fegan adds.

In response, Severn Trent insists that drivers were used for small leakages (about 50 leaks over the 2-week period) and only to “quickly assess the correct response.” They don’t substitute for water technicians but only replace them for a job that doesn’t require any kind of training or skill in this sense.

This way, technicians can focus on more important stuff, like “fixing leaks rather than simply assessing them,” the company says.
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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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