Transport for All gave evidence at a high level scrutiny on Dial-A-Ride services held by the Transport Committee of the Greater London Authority.
This important door to door service that is used by many disabled and older Londoners has been beset with problems for over a year. Following on from a motion that was passed at the GLA in December, slating D-A-R’s ‘deplorable’ standard of service – TfA joined Transport for London managers and Unite the Union in listing concerns over the deteriorating level of service.
Faryal Velmi, TfA Director spoke about how long waits to get through to the D-A-R call centre were common, and server crashes often led to call backlogs which took hours to clear. She also listed that users were often left disappointed when they could not get the service to make even local trips, or were given one way trips only.
Faryal was keen to stress that D-A-R must not be viewed as the poor family relation in the Transport network, and that there will always be a growing number of people who rely on D-A-R to maintain independent lives. She stressed that the budgets of door to door services must not be ram-raided for other projects like Crossrail. Disabled and older Londoners need and want affordable, reliable and decently funded services.
Other problems raised included a temporary ban on regular bookings, and the service not being guaranteed. The inadequacies of the scheduling system were also spoken about – with TfA and Unite highlighting that this is a major problem.
Faryal put forward the point that a pan-london booking centre lacked the local borough knowledge that was required to provide efficent and cost effective service. Tfl could learn well from the Community Transport sector, which schedules and runs thousands of local trips a year, providing a reliable service to disabled and older groups and individuals.
The Transport committee also questioned TfL statistics that showed 92% approval ratings with the D-A-R service. A survey done by the Transport committee itself highlighted that 40% of users thought D-A-R performance was ‘poor’. This was backed up by the opinions of a large number of service users who attended the meeting.
In closing the meeting Val Shawcross (AM Lambeth and Southwark), the chair of the transport committee said that TfL was still ‘in denial’ about the problems and that a ‘methodical action plan’ was needed from TfL management, rather than just assurances that they were going to ‘sort out’ the problems. The prospect of having an independent review of the service was also considered.
In the coming months, Transport for All hopes to work with the GLA Transport committee, as well as service users and the Community Transport sector to offer an alternative vision of the capital’s door to door network.