Havering’s Dial-a-Ride champion to get crunch meeting at City Hall with deputy mayor for transport

Dial-a-Ride representative Michael Lloyd.

Dial-a-Ride representative Michael Lloyd. - Credit: Archant

A man representing Havering’s Dial-a-Ride drivers and users will meet with the deputy mayor for transport next month to discuss growing concerns over the future of the “vital lifeline” service.

Dial-a-Ride is run by Transport for London (TfL) for the capital’s more vulnerable residents to allow them to remain active in the community

A bus is routed to pick up as many as eight members at a time and drop them at their chosen location.

But numerous changes in the service’s scheduling system, as well as a reduction in a newly ordered fleet of replacement buses, have seen both members and drivers grow concerned for its future.

Michael Lloyd, Havering Members of Dial-A-Ride and Taxicard representative, has repeatedly requested meetings with the new deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, but until recently says he has been “wilfully ignored”.

In a formal complaint to City Hall, submitted on October 29 and seen by the Recorder, Mr Lloyd wrote: “I have been afforded the courtesy of meetings with two of your predecessors regarding London Dial-a-Ride as we all shared a common goal of making this service as efficient as it could be for its members.

“I am therefore surprised and at a loss to understand why you do not find it necessary to even reply to my emails let alone schedule the requested meeting.

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A spokeswoman for Heidi Alexander told the Recorder the mayor’s office was now looking to find a date suitable for Mr Lloyd and Ms Alexander to meet.

She said: “The Dial-a-Ride service caters for more than a million journeys a year, has high customer satisfaction and an exemplary safety record.

“The new greener vehicles will meet the Mayor’s tough air quality standards four months before the central London Ultra Low Emission Zone comes into operation.

“The Deputy Mayor for Transport receives a high volume of correspondence and requests for meetings. She has thanked Mr Lloyd for his feedback and suggestions, and hopes to meet him soon when her schedule allows.”

Mr Lloyd has confirmed he will now meet the deputy mayor on December 21.

He said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Recorder for their unequivocal support over the past 10 years. Beyond any reasonable doubt it’s the Recorder’s intervention that has secured my vital meeting with Heidi Alexander the Deputy Mayor for Transport.”

As a result of the new booking system drivers are saying it is become much more common for their buses not to be full, which they say is a waste of resources.

In addition, the bus drivers say members have noted a sharp increase in the number of requested trips they are having rejected by schedulers.

A Freedom of Information request to TfL revealed that the number of journey requests refused by Dial-A-Ride schedulers across the capital since the new system was introduced in 2005 has risen by a staggering 69pc.

The number of recorded refusals in the year before the new booking system was introduced stood at 99,821, but by 2016/17 this had risen to 168,647.

Despite the increase in Dial-A-Ride’s number of refusals, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan revealed at a recent meeting at City Hall that the service received just 1,088 complaints in 2016/17, after completing 1,175,497 journeys.

This is down from 2011/12, when the service received 2,103 complaints but completed 1,375,879 journeys.

A TfL spokeswoman insisted the organisation has repeatedly invested more money into Dial-A-Ride, with operating costs rising from £20,500 in 2005 to £35,700 in 2017.