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Transport for London (18 005 619)

Category : Transport and highways > Public transport

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 18 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Miss B complains that TfL has not taken adequate action to respond to her complaints about overcrowding and non-stopping

The complaint

  1. Miss B complains that Transport for London (TfL) has failed to take action to respond to her complaints about overcrowded and non-stopping buses on the route that she uses to get to and from work, in particular between 8.00am and 9.00am when she is travelling to work. She also fees that TfL has taken too long to respond to her complaints about the service. This has caused her considerable inconvenience and frustration and she has sometimes had to pay to take a taxi to work.
  2. She considers that more buses are needed at peak hours and that drivers need to be told to stop to pick up passengers.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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”. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
  2. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered Mrs B’s written complaint and spoken her. I have considered TfL’s response to the Ombudsman’s enquiries. I have also sent Mrs B and TfL a draft decision and invited their comments.

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What I found

  1. Miss B uses a bus service operated on behalf of TfL to get to and from work each day. In the morning, she uses the service between 8.00am and 9.00am. The location where she boards the bus is a “hail and ride” section, where buses should stop on request.
  2. Between October 2017, Miss B made over 20 complaints to TfL about the reliability of the bus service. Her complaints included:
    • overcrowding due to insufficient buses being scheduled at rush hour;
    • gaps of half an hour in the service due to buses being withdrawn from service;
    • buses being withdrawn from service with no warning from the bus tracking service;
    • some buses not stopping when full, even when drivers knew that school children would get off the bus soon; and
    • some drivers deliberately not stopping for her following complaints.
  3. TfL responded by email to most of the complaints:
    • it said it would ask the operator to review the service to see if changes were needed;
    • it explained why buses withdrawn from service might not immediately show up on the bus tracking service; and
    • it would pass on her complaints about individual drivers not stopping for them to be investigated and interviewed by a manager in accordance with their terms of employment to see if disciplinary action was appropriate.
  4. Miss B complained to the Ombudsman who asked TfL to respond formally to her complaints.
  5. TfL explained that:
    • there were two buses an hour on non-schooldays and three on schooldays;
    • according to TfL’s data this should be sufficient to meet demand;
    • the operator had not received any other complaints about buses not stopping, so it was felt that the drivers might not have stopped due to safety issues; and
    • TfL had asked the operator to monitor the route to try and identify the problem.
  6. Miss B was dissatisfied with the response and reported further problems. TfL responded and explained that unfortunately, there was a loss of data so further route monitoring was needed, after which it would be able to provide a final response. As a goodwill gesture, TfL sent Miss B a two-day “London Pass” offering free admission to a number of attractions.
  7. Miss B continued to report problems with overcrowded buses not stopping and gaps in the service.
  8. TfL apologised for the continuing problems and in December wrote to her and explained that it accepted that there was a capacity issue around certain journeys, including the morning rush-hour period identified by Miss B. TfL explained that it was reviewing the timetable with the operator with the aim of providing more buses at busy times. It explained that this was a complex matter and might take some time.
  9. TfL also apologised for not having investigated the service problems earlier, given the multiple complaints received about the route. It explained that the team responsible for bus complaints and queries had been reminded of the need to check where there were repeated issues with the same service.
  10. TfL then confirmed that changes to the route had been agreed with a bus being moved to take the pressure off the rush-hour service. It would implement this change around mid-February and would then monitor this for six weeks to determine whether it had proved effective. TfL also apologised for the time taken to resolve this matter and offered Miss B £50 by way of an apology.

My assessment

  1. I am not able to determine whether drivers deliberately refused to stop on some occasions, whether this was due to traffic conditions making it unsafe to stop, or overcrowding. But, it is clear that Miss B has experienced considerable frustration and inconvenience as a result of the overcrowded service and cancellations.
  2. These service failings were brought to TfL’s attention and to the attention of the operator on numerous occasions, and Miss B was assured that the matter would be investigated, but almost a year passed before the route problems were properly investigated. This was fault, and meant at Miss B was inconvenienced for far longer than she should have been by the unreliable bus service. She was also put to considerable time and trouble in pursuing her complaints until the matter was properly addressed.
  3. TfL has now taken appropriate measures to try and address the capacity issues in the morning and, although Miss B has again reported problems with the service, I think it reasonable to await the outcome of the six-week monitoring period to see whether this resolves the problems.
  4. As for the personal injustice caused to Miss B, TfL has already apologised to her for the poor service and the failure to take action earlier. It has also provided a London Pass to the value of £99 and a further payment of £50, which I consider to be a proportionate response.
  5. However, I consider that TfL should also put measures in place to ensure that it monitors complaints about individual routes in order to identify and investigate service problems earlier.

Agreed action

  1. I consider that the route changes are an appropriate response to Miss B’s complaints about the service, and the apology, London Pass and £50 payment are a suitable response to her personal injustice.
  2. TfL has also agreed, within three months, to put in place a system to ensure that it identifies and investigates in a timely manner repeated service complaints about the same bus route.

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Final decision

  1. I have closed my investigation into Miss B’s complaint because the actions set out above represent a suitable remedy for the injustice caused to Miss B.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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