Transport for London are proposing to axe the Capital Call scheme that has operated in ten boroughs since 2003. These boroughs are: Bexley, Ealing, Enfield, Haringey, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton and Southwark.
They are asking people to respond to a consultation at https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/assisted-transport/capital-call by Friday 11 April 2014.
Deliberative engagement event
Transport for All has also asked Transport for London to hold a deliberative engagement event to discuss the future of Capital Call, so that members have the opportunity to consider the options face-to-face and and TfL staff can hear directly from members. A proportion of Capital Call members from across these boroughs, selected at random, will be invited by TfL. If you are a Capital Call user and would like to attend, please contact us on 020 7737 2339 or email contactus [at] transportforall.org.uk with Capital Call in the subject heading.
A flexible transport budget that puts the user in charge
Capital Call was originally set up to ‘plug the gap’ of poor black cab availability through the Taxicard scheme in these outer London areas. Members in these boroughs are given a budget they are able to use to book minicabs. It is now an accessible transport option that many disabled and older people rely on.
Users pay £1.50 per journey, and the remainder of their fare up to £11.80 is topped up from a £200 budget. Capital Call members can ‘swipe’ up to five times in one journey, giving a great deal more flexibility than with Taxicard (where some boroughs do not even allow double swiping) and Dial A Ride (where there is a five-mile trip limit). Users control this budget, deciding whether a few longer journeys or regular shorter journeys suit their needs.
Transport for London does not lay out any plans for where the money saved by axing Capital Call will be reinvested.
The consultation document only says: ‘By closing Capital Call, we can redirect this funding into TfL’s other transport services’.
Leaving users high and dry
TfA opposes plans to cut Capital Call because we believe that removing an accessible door to door transport option without any concrete alternative plans will leave users high and dry.
London’s two other door to door schemes, Taxicard and and Dial-A-Ride are cited as schemes that Capital Call users will be continue to be able to access. However, both of these schemes have their own fair share of issues.
Members tell us that they value Capital Call because availability is good; and because there is the flexibility to use it for longer journeys. The same cannot be said of Dial-a-Ride and Taxicard. Dial-A-Ride is a lifeline for many thousands of disabled and older Londoners, but is stretched and often there are issues of members not being able to get through to the call centre to make bookings and/or not getting trips at the desired times.
Taxicard too does not always work well for members. In the boroughs where Capital Call operates, figures from London Councils state that there has been a sharp decrease in Taxicard usage. Ealing saw a 31% decrease in Taxicard usage between 2011/12 to 2012/13. Lambeth Taxicard usage was down by 25% and Southwark usage was down by 27%.
Calls to our advice line tell us that that a reason for this significant decrease in usage is that Taxicard is not affordable for many people.
Cuts to Taxicard in 2011 meant Taxicard has become much more expensive to use. It now costs much more to travel a shorter distance than in 2010, and many are finding that for some journeys it is cheaper to book a minicab.
Furthermore, availability can also be a problem, with one in twenty Taxicard passengers waiting for more than 15minutes for a cab. Taxicard is operated by ComCab, and there are fewer ComCab drivers than there were five years ago.
Capital Call allows longer journeys
Capital Call is also the only door-to-door transport service where disabled people who can’t use buses and Tube can make longer journeys at a subsidised rate. The ability to swipe up to five times allows us to visit friends and family further afield, and to travel to meetings or events beyond a small boundary. People from these outer boroughs value being able to go to the events and attractions in Central London.
Dial A Ride only offers trips within a five mile radius, while with Taxicard, the discount only applies up to a trip limit of around £11.80 or three or four miles (or twice this in the boroughs that allow double swiping).
Without Capital Call, there is no affordable door-to-door service where disabled people can travel further afield. Disabled people should not have to live their lives confined to a five-mile radius – we have lives beyond the local!
Youcef Bey Zekkoub is a volunteer at Transport for All and Capital Call member in Lambeth.
He says: “I personally find Capital Call more affordable to use than Taxicard. When you call and book with them, and they say give £1.50 or £3 to the driver – it is always £1.50 or £3 never more. This means that they never charge us for waiting time, or bad traffic and there is no ‘run in’ charge of £3.40 on the meter”.
“Capital Call also allows me to travel with my wife and son or family members. You cannot travel with your family on Dial-a-Ride service or Patient Transport”.
Wasif Bhatti is a Capital Call member in Hounslow. He said:
“If Capital Call is cut, it will affect me in a big way because I use Capital Call for longer journeys, when I want to visit friends out of the Hounslow area in Slough, Hillingdon and Leatherhead in Surrey. I can’t always get Dial-a-Ride for a return journey so I use Capital Call to return from local journeys as well.
Transport for All is urging supporters to make their voices heard on this issue. If Capital Call is axed, it is not enough just to see the money re-invested. Capital Call is liked by members because its affordable; because users do not face the waits that Dial A Ride and Taxicard can involve; and because being allowed to swipe up to five times means that longer journeys are possible.
We would like to see TfL work to ensure that the availability and flexibility that Capital Call offers is not lost, but that existing door to door scheme learn from the best aspects of Capital Call. Specifically:
- That the Taxicard scheme is reconfigured to allow users to swipe up to five times, so that the flexibility of Capital Call is not lost
- That TfL give more information about where the funding for Capital Call will be redirected
- That TfL and London Councils work to improve the availability of Taxicard, including looking at working with other cab companies to ensure there are enough drivers to meet peak demand