Transport for London and London TravelWatch

This fact sheet is aimed primarily at people who have a problem with the way Transport for London (TfL) or London TravelWatch has dealt with their complaint and may be considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman.

Who are Transport for London and London TravelWatch and what do they do?

TfL is an integrated transport authority responsible for the day-to-day operation of London’s public transport network.  It also manages London’s main roads.

You can contact Transport for London at: https://tfl.gov.uk/help-and-contact/.

London Travelwatch is the official watchdog organisation representing the interests of transport users in and around London.  It is officially known as London Transport Users Committee.  It is independent from the transport operators and deals with complaints about services operated or licenced by TfL.  This includes:

  • London Buses
  • London Underground
  • Docklands Light Railway
  • Tramlink
  • River boats and ferries
  • Santander cycle hire
  • Emirates Air Line (cable car river crossing)
  • Oyster Card
  • Victoria Coach Station
  • Dial-a-Ride
  • Congestion Charge
  • Low Emission Zone

It also deals with main line railway services operated by some National Rail Companies.

You can contact London TravelWatch at www.londontravelwatch.org.uk/contact/contact_us.

I have a complaint about these bodies. Can the Ombudsman help me?

As with most other types of complaint, before the Ombudsman can investigate we expect you to raise your concerns with the organisation which provides the service first. This might be TfL or a bus, tram or rail company.

How do I complain?

  • You should normally complain to TfL or London TravelWatch first. There may be two or more stages to the complaints procedure depending on which part of TfL or type of service you are complaining about. You will usually have to complete all the stages before we will look at your complaint.

  • Then, if you are unhappy with the outcome, or TfL/London TravelWatch is taking too long to look into the matter – we think 12 weeks is reasonable – you can complain to us.

  • You should normally make your complaint to us within 12 months of realising that something has gone wrong. 

  • You can complete an online complaint form at www.lgo.org.uk/complaint-form.

  • You can phone our helpline on 0300 061 0614. You will be able to discuss your complaint with one of our advisers.

What sort of complaints can the Ombudsman look at?

  • Penalties issues for congestion charge and low emission zone – We may look at a complaint if TfL has unreasonably failed to exercise discretion to cancel a penalty. But some complaints may be out of our jurisdiction because there is a statutory right of appeal – see separate fact sheet on complaints about the congestion charge and low emission zone.
  • Penalties issued for traffic contraventions, red routes, bus lanes, etc – We may investigate complaints about traffic enforcement where a complainant is claiming there were mitigating circumstances which should mean that it would be reasonable for TfL to cancel the penalty. See separate fact sheet on complaints about the enforcement of parking penalties.
  • Delays in registration for discount or exemption from congestion charge – We may consider complaints about the failure of TfL to deal with applications for residents’ discount or vehicle exemption in a reasonable time.
  • Roads and streets – TfL is the highways authority for large parts of the road network in London. We may consider complaints about road layouts and traffic management, highways drainage, defective traffic signals, parking provision and restrictions, etc, provided the complainant does not have an alternative legal remedy.
  • London Buses – We may consider complaints about bus routes, location of bus stops and shelters, and complaints such as failure of bus companies to ensure that engines are switched off when buses are on a stand and noise and vibrations caused by buses. We may also consider complaints from passengers about poor service or oyster cards, but these type of complaints are usually best made to London TravelWatch (see above). Complaints about fixed penalties for non-payment of fares are outside our jurisdiction.
  • Other public transport in London – We will normally consider complaints about the operation of public passenger transport run by TfL, unless there is a legal remedy available to the complaint.
  • Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles – The Public Carriage Office is part of TfL and is in our jurisdiction. We may consider complaints from taxi drivers about the operation of its disciplinary procedure and from passengers about the lack of effectiveness of that procedure. 

    We will not normally investigate complaints about refusals to grant a taxi or private hire vehicle licence or about TfL’s revocation of such a licence, as these decisions carry a right of appeal to the magistrates’ court which, in most cases, we would consider it reasonable for the person affected to use.

What does ‘fault’ look like?

We may find fault by TfL where it:

  • failed to consider moving a bus stop which was causing neighbouring householders unnecessary problems
  • continued to pursue a motorist for payment of a penalty after representations had been accepted and the PCN cancelled, and
  • wrongly clamped a person’s car when enforcing a penalty against the previous owner of the vehicle.

We may find fault by London TravelWatch where it:

  • failed to ask TfL to provide an adequate response to a complaint
  • failed to properly investigate a complaint about a service within its jurisdiction. 

If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?

Some faults we might find are that TfL:

  • failed to take action to re-programme traffic signals that allowed pedestrians insufficient time to cross a road and were dangerous
  • failed to consider moving a bus stop which was causing neighbouring householders unnecessary problems
  • continued to pursue a motorist for payment of a penalty after representations had been accepted and the PCN cancelled, and
  • wrongly clamped a person’s car when enforcing a penalty against the previous owner of the vehicle.

What happens if the Ombudsman finds there was fault?

It depends on the nature of the fault and what the consequences are for you. If the impact on you is significant we may ask TfL to refund penalties or bailiff charges and pay a financial remedy for the time and trouble you were put to in dealing with the matter.  We may ask London TravelWatch to consider a complaint again and/or to review its approach to dealing with complaints, if we believe there may be a systemic issue which could affect others. 

Examples of some complaints we have considered

The complainant drove a car with very low emissions. If she had registered the car with TfL she could have received 100% discount from the congestion charge. However, she did not register it and received penalties when she drove in the charging zone without paying the appropriate charge. TfL refused to cancel the penalties. She complained to us but we found TfL had acted without fault. It had considered what she had to say in mitigation but had decided that it was reasonable to expect her to have checked the regulations which were published on its website before she entered the zone without paying the charge. 
TfL issued the complainant a penalty charge notice for stopping on the road while a ‘no stopping’ restriction was in force.  The complainant made representations against the penalty charge notice and appealed to London Tribunals, but London Tribunals dismissed her appeal.  She then complained to the Ombudsman
The complainant asked TfL to investigate and address noise and vibrations to his property caused by underground trains.  The Ombudsman found TfL did not properly investigate the issue and did not take all reasonable steps to deal with it.  We recommended, and TfL agreed, to conduct further investigation into the issue and write to the complainant to set out what action it would take.  TfL also agreed to pay the complainant £150 for his time and trouble. 
TfL refused an application for a private hire vehicle driver’s licence in 2018.  The complainant disagreed with its decision and questioned the evidence on which it was based.  We decided not to investigate this complaint as it would have been reasonable for the complainant to appeal against the decision to the magistrates’ court.
The complainant complained to London TravelWatch about being refused access to a riverboat service.  London TravelWatch said it could not disclose information about an investigation into staff conduct but that it was satisfied with the action taken by TfL to deal with it and with its response. 
We decided TfL had failed to respond to the complainant’s concerns and that it had not provided factual and accurate information to enable the complainant to understand its decision.  London TravelWatch was therefore at fault in deciding TfL had provided an appropriate response.  London TravelWatch agreed to review its approach to complaints handling with TfL to ensure members of the public receive appropriate responses to their complaints.

 

Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please contact us.

We provide a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result we aim to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.

December 2019

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