Dial-a-Ride woes see vulnerable east London residents facing lengthy waits to confirm bookings
PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 March 2018
Vulnerable residents across east London have been waiting for more than a year for a vital transport service to allow them to make bookings that will help them get out of their homes on a weekly basis.
Dial-a-Ride is run by Transport for London (TfL) for the capital’s older and more vulnerable residents to allow them to remain active in their communities.
A bus is routed to pick up as many as eight members at a time and drop them at their chosen location.
It currently has more than 45,000 registered members across London and places no restriction on the number of trips that a member can request, subject to any limitations arising from TfL’s available resources.
But, some residents in east London have complained that the service’s booking system has left them waiting months, and in some cases years, for the system to accept regular bookings.
Susan Bearman, 52, of Taunton Road, Harold Hill, has suffered from numerous health problems, and has spent three years applying to Dial-a-Ride for a regular booking from her home to the Havering Association for People with Disabilities in Woodhall Crescent, Hornchurch, every Friday morning.
She said: “Every six months I’ll ring up and ask for a regular booking to get me there, and every time I’m told ‘unfortunately your booking has not been approved, please try again’.”
“I’m a fighter and I’ll keep fighting for it, but it’s just been going on for so long now that it’s laughable really.”
According to a recent Freedom of Information request, Dial-a-Ride completed 1,352,076 trips in the 2012/13 financial year, and 851,723 – 63pc – of these were regular bookings.
But by last year, just 642,842 – 55pc – of the service’s 1,175,497 completed trips were regular bookings.
And some members of Dial-a-Ride believe TfL is working to reduce the amount of regular bookings it takes on as a way to manipulate performance statistics.
Michael Lloyd, Havering members Dial-a-Ride and Taxi Card representative, said: “Over the last two years some of my fellow members have been applying for a regular booking, including going to the same location, and still have not been allocated a regular booking.
“It is my opinion that the underlying reason why Dial-a-Ride removed regular booking entitlements is solely to prevent members from lodging formal complaints about this matter.
“Clearly a member cannot make a complaint about being refused a regular booking if they are no longer entitled to apply for one.
“This new policy serves to guarantee a service ‘improvement’ but only on paper, and is to the detriment of the passengers it is supposed to serve.”
A Transport for London spokesman insisted that Dial-A-Ride’s current regular booking system was still open to applications, but revealed the organisation has recently taken a more “pro-active approach” to helping provide its more vulnerable residents with regular bookings.
He also admitted that currently, the system prioritises crucial trips such as taking elderly residents to supermarkets for weekly shopping trips over calls that are deemed less important, such as trips to clubs and social events, but said that the organisation is constantly reviewing its booking procedures.