Transport for London has spent almost £500,000 with a private healthcare provider for fast return coronavirus tests for its train drivers and instructors – but has so far tested fewer than 700 employees in over two months.
The public transport authority paid £490,000 to London-based Health Technologies Ltd, the parent company of testing provider Qured, to supply Covid-19 antigen tests for a six month period, contract details published by the Government show.
The asymptomatic testing regime has allowed TfL to resume driver instruction within the cabs of its trains, where it is not possible to maintain social distancing, a spokesman said.
They added that only 681 employees have so far been tested under the £490,000 programme, averaging fewer than 100 tests per week.
The scheme began in mid-August and will run until February and has a capacity to test 500 staff members each week, according to the contract.
Under the agreement, Health Technologies must provide the test results no later than the next day for all testing that takes place before 6pm.
While ministers have insisted that they are on course to meet their target of 500,000 tests a day by the end of the month, there remains significant delays in the NHS test-and-trace system.
TfL has also launched a separate pilot of home-testing kits for staff who are self-isolating because either they or a household member are symptomatic and unable to access NHS testing.
“This will help vital transport staff return to their roles in keeping the transport system moving,” the spokesman said.
The pandemic has hammered TfL’s finances as footfall on public transport in the capital collapsed during the first wave of the virus and was slow to return as workers remained at home during the summer.
Last week, business leaders urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to finalise a £5.7bn bailout of London's debt-ridden transport network to stave off disaster.
Alex Templeton, chief executive of testing provider Qured, said the partnership "is going very well, and clearly providing safety and confidence to both Tube drivers and of course passengers".
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs has started offering its UK staff coronavirus tests and antibody tests in a bid to encourage workers back into the office.
In a memo, seen by The Telegraph, City bankers have been told that they will receive "invitations" in the coming weeks with instructions for how to book individual tests. The memo added that London's shift into Tier 2 does not change its office measures although it urged staff to "avoid busy times and routes" when coming in.
Goldman's testing announcement coincided with another memo from the bank which alerted staff that two people on its London trading floors had tested positive for the virus.