The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Transport for London was at fault, as buses belonging to a contracted firm were wrongly parking outside the complainant’s house. TfL also directed the complainant to the wrong body to escalate her complaint. However, there is no evidence of significant injustice, and for this reason the Ombudsman has completed his investigation.
- The complainant, to whom I will refer as Ms G, says bus drivers have been repeatedly using the road in front of her home as an ‘unofficial’ bus stand. This has caused excessive noise and pollution, blocks the road and prevents easy access to the park opposite.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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)
- If we are satisfied with an authority’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)
How I considered this complaint
- I reviewed the correspondence between Ms G and Transport for London (TfL), and sought clarification from TfL on the actions it had taken.
- I also shared a draft copy of this decision with each party for their comments.
What I found
- Ms G lives on a narrow one-way road, in a heavily built-up area of London. The road forms a crescent, joining a dual carriageway at either end. The area between the crescent and the dual carriageway is a park.
- Between March and July 2019, Ms G contacted TfL on several occasions. She complained bus drivers were parking on the road directly outside her home for extended periods, often leaving their engines running. She said this was causing her and her family significant disruption because of the noise and pollution, to the point where she was being forced to leave her home at the weekend.
- She also complained the buses were blocking the road, causing car drivers to sound their horns and mount the kerb to pass them, and preventing disabled people, and those with pushchairs or prams, from entering the park at that location.
- In its responses, TfL explained the buses were operated by one of its contractors. It confirmed buses should not be using that location as a bus stand, and that was illegal for any vehicle to remain stationery with its engine running, including buses. TfL asked Ms G to provide photographic evidence where possible to identify the buses involved, and said it was taking the matter up with its contractor.
- Ms G raised her complaint to the Ombudsman on 8 August, as she considered there had been no improvement in the situation.
- TfL sent its final response to Ms G on 13 August. It apologised for the disruption she had suffered, and referred to London TravelWatch (LTW) if she wished to escalate her complaint further.
- Ms G contacted LTW, and it replied on 15 August to explain its jurisdiction only covered complaints from passengers, and not residents.
- In the course of my investigation, I made enquiries with TfL about what actions it had taken in response to Ms G’s complaints.
- TfL confirmed again that buses should not use Ms G’s road as a bus stand. It said the contractor had placed signs in the relevant bus garage, informing drivers they must not park there and warning it may lead to disciplinary action if they continue to do so. These warnings were also given in radio messages to bus drivers, and that supervisors would undertake meetings with any driver who was found to have breached the rule.
- TfL also explained there had been recent diversions to bus routes because of works in the local area. As part of the this, TfL had agreed Ms G’s road could be used to allow buses to turn around, although not to park.
- Further to this, the contractor had undertaken a review of parking places for buses in August. TfL said there had been operational changes at the local bus garage, which had reduced problems with parking.
- TfL said it was happy to provide Ms G with a direct point of contact with the contractor, to allow her to report any further issues. The contractor had also confirmed it was happy to meet with Ms G for the same purpose.
- It is clear bus drivers have wrongly used Ms G’s road as a bus stand for a period of time. As this should not have been happening, I must find fault. Although the drivers do not work directly for TfL, TfL retains ultimate responsibility for the behaviour of its contractors, and so it is TfL which is at fault here.
- This said, I am satisfied TfL has taken the matter seriously. I cannot, myself, judge to what degree the local disruption described by TfL has been directly responsible for the problems experienced by Ms G. However, I cannot see what more the Ombudsman could recommend here to put matters right.
- In addition, while I accept this has caused Ms G some frustration, I do not consider the problems she has described represent a serious injustice. She lives in a built-up area, a short distance from a busy dual carriageway, and I cannot accept the parking of a bus outside her property (with or without the engine running) creates a significant increase in noise or pollution, beyond what is already present.
- And while I appreciate the parking of a bus on a narrow road may cause an obstruction to other drivers, and to those wishing to cross the road to enter or exit the park, these are minor inconveniences. They do not represent a significant, personal injustice to Ms G, for which the Ombudsman might recommend a remedy.
- There is a separate point on which I must find fault by TfL. In its final response, it referred Ms G to LTW to pursue her complaint. This was incorrect; LTW investigate complaints from passengers about the services they had received on the London travel network. It does not investigate complaints from residents, such as those Ms G has raised. These are instead matters for the Ombudsman. I am critical of TfL for directing Ms G to the wrong body.
- I note Ms G had already approached the Ombudsman with her complaint, before TfL had directed her to LTW, and so I do not consider this caused her an injustice.
- This being the case, I do not consider this warrants further action by the Ombudsman. However, I would ask TfL to note this point.
- I have completed my investigation with a finding of fault which did not cause injustice.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman