The Government is being urged to save the UK's 82,000 taxi drivers from "financial ruin" because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has written to transport secretary Grant Shapps asking for an urgent meeting, as the union's taxi drivers report a slump in income of 95% as fewer people travel, with some drivers making just £10 after seven hours working in London.

Unite said taxi drivers were keen to play an active part in the national battle against the coronavirus by transporting key workers such as NHS staff to work and patients to non-emergency appointments, as well as shopping trips to supermarkets for the elderly.

Mr McCluskey wrote: "With most people staying at home the reduction in trade is so severe that taxi driver income, in many instances, does not cover operating costs.

"Many taxi drivers are already experiencing financial hardship.

"Many of our members in the taxi sector have written to us in distress as they anticipate the collapse of their business and imminent destitution without further support from the Government.

"At rail stations and airports our members are struggling to pick up any trade, with some reporting they are only managing to make £10 after seven hours of working in London."

Unite had campaigned for parity with the coronavirus job retention scheme, but said its taxi driver members cannot wait for June to receive financial relief, and many are exempt from claiming Universal Credit.

Mr McCluskey added: "This is fuelling anguish, despair, worry and family issues as drivers struggle with the potential of financial collapse. In most cases taxi drivers would not qualify for universal benefits, due to the draconian means testing of this service.

"Many of our members in the taxi sector are now relying on handouts from the already under pressure food banks.

"Our union fears not only for the survival of the taxi industry, but also for the mental health and wellbeing of our members who are on the brink of financial ruin and the impact this is all having on their families."

By Alan Jones, PA Industrial Correspondent