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London Travelwatch (17 013 274)

Category : Transport and highways > Public transport

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 21 Feb 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate how Transport for London and London TravelWatch have dealt with the complainant’s concerns about health and safety issues on two bus routes. The Ombudsman is unlikely to find fault causing the complainant injustice that warrants his involvement. If the complainant has suffered harm, he can seek a remedy in court.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, Mr B, has complained about how Transport for London (TfL) and London TravelWatch (LTW) have dealt with his concerns about bus drivers ignoring health and safety issues on two bus routes. Mr B says he has been the victim of the drivers’ disregard of health and safety rules.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’.
  3. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if, for example, we believe:
    • it is unlikely we would find fault;
    • the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained;
    • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement; or
    • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)
  4. We will not usually investigate how a body has dealt with a complaint about something we would not ourselves investigate.
  5. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Mr B said in his complaint.

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What I found

  1. Mr B is concerned that drivers on two bus routes do not comply with health and safety rules. In particular, he says they allow passengers to stand on stairs or on the upper deck.
  2. Buses in London are operated by companies contracted by TfL to provide a particular service. The operating companies are responsible for day-to-day issues such as the actions of particular drivers.
  3. Mr B has raised his concerns with TfL and also with LTW which represents transport users in London. He is unhappy with how these bodies have dealt with his concerns.

Analysis

  1. While I understand Mr B’s concerns for his own safety and that of other passengers, I do not consider any fault by TfL has caused Mr B personal injustice that would warrant our investigation.
  2. If, as he has suggested, Mr B has come to some harm as a result of a driver’s actions we would not investigate. This is because Mr B’s complaint would in effect be that TfL or the bus operator had been negligent. Adjudication on questions of negligence usually involves making decisions on contested questions of fact and law which need the more rigorous and structured procedures of civil litigation for their proper determination. In addition, only a court can decide if a council has been negligent and what damages must be paid.
  3. We cannot decide whether a body has been negligent and have no powers to enforce an award of damages. For this reason, we would usually expect someone in Mr B’s position to seek a remedy in the courts, directly or through his insurers.
  4. As I do not consider we should investigate the substantive issues in this complaint, we will not look at how TfL or LTW has dealt with Mr B’s concerns.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint for the reasons in paragraphs 11 to 14.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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