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Sunday, 11 September 2011

News from the BBC

Passengers tell us that London's bus network is one of the best in the world - frequent, clean, reliable and safe. But, as with most things in life, it isn't perfect.

The BBC's transport expert, Tom Edwards, illustrated this last week with some interesting reflections on the volume and nature of the complaints we receive about buses.

Complaints are really important feedback for us. We use them to identify the root causes of issues and enable us to address them where we can.

But one thing we shouldn't forget is the sheer scale of London's bus network, which is central to keeping the great metropolis of London moving and growing. This helps to put the number of complaints into context.

Buses carry some 6 million passengers a day. Last year, we carried a record 2.25 billion passengers (while, incidentally, the Underground carried a record 1.1 billion passengers).

Every complaint is, of course, important, and many people who are dissatisfied won't complain formally when they experience a poor service. But even taking that into account, 26,000 complaints over a whole year is a tiny proportion of the passengers we carry each day. So, without being complacent, we must be getting quite lot right.

The number of complaints by route also needs some explanation. Our bus routes are not of uniform size. Some are 24 hours a day, 7 days a week every few minutes in busy areas, while others run a couple of times a day on schooldays only. This is why routes like 38 and 73 feature because they are amongst the ones that carry the most passengers.

But as a percentage of passengers carried, the number of complaints is very small. It is where levels of complaint are disproportionately high relative to passenger numbers on the route that we take a particularly sharp interest in them.

We know that for every formal complaint there may be some other dissatisfied customers who didn’t put pen to paper. But we like complaints. Each and every one of them tells us about what went wrong for individuals who used our network. It would cost a fortune to learn this through research, so every single letter, email and phone call is reviewed to see what lessons might be learned.

Where there have been issues regarding staff, we do what we can to identify them and they are followed up. These days, on-board CCTV helps us understand what went on and the behaviour of staff – and passengers – is there for us to see.

I regularly review complaints and take a personal interest in investigations. There is no doubt that some passengers do not get the service to which they are entitled, and in those cases we apologise and, where appropriate, take other steps to put things right.

Many complainants provide good information (date, time, direction, even registration number of bus) so we can quickly get onto it. They are also often written to prevent a repetition in the future rather than to seek compensation. I welcome them because it helps us to take steps to improve our service to customers.

Our services are open to all and occasionally there will be a problem. I’m glad 26,000 people contacted us to tell us what they thought, even if that is a tiny fraction of the passengers we carry every day. In fact, I encourage anyone who has suffered poor service to contact us through the many available channels. It is their chance to make sure we know, and our chance to put it right.

And if that means more people are writing to us – I will be delighted! And, very soon, we will start publishing our complaints statistics across all of TfL's services - buses, Underground etc - so that all of our customers can see how we are doing.



  1. You don't carry 6 million passengers a day, there maybe 6 million journies made a day but that is a totally different thing.
    Shame you seem to have fallen into the TfL spin machine so easily, next you'll be telling us that you never thought bendy-buses were a good idea in London

  2. If you were to only charge once if a passenger changes route to be able to get to their destination how would that affect the number of passenger journeys? ie you can get on as many buses as needed to complete your journey within 70 minutes without it costing you more.

  3. perhaps it would be useful, too, to have an effective complaint mechanism that would allow cyclist to let tfl know about dangerous junctions.

    just as an example, the young cyclists paula jurek was killed earlier this year at the junction of camden rd and pancras way.

    local cycling groups had warned tfl on several occasions over the past few years that this junction was dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. tfl ignored them. the present approach to safety is to only react after deaths and serious injuries. now, finally, the junction is to be redesigned.

    this death was entirely foreseeable, and preventable. cyclists know when a junction is dangerous - there are always frequent near-misses - and many cyclists will avoid those routes. it should not be necessary to wait for someone to be seriously injured or die for the junction to be redesigned. but tfl needs to listen.

    just as an example, it is very clear to cyclists that the new design for blackfriars is dangerous for cyclists. several hundred have taken time to demonstrate en masse more than once to try to make this understood by tfl. it should not be necessary to wait for the inevitable serious accidents to decide to look again at the design.


  5. two more very serious cycle accidents today, both on busy multi-lane junctions, like the one you're intending to build at blackfriars, or the one you're asking families to cycle through on the way to the olympics

    separated cycle lanes have been proved to be safer:

  6. just some details on the climaterush protest on blackfriars (and outside tfl!) tomorrow. most of what they're saying seems very sensible.

  7. Would love to post something relevant on this instead of instead of troll posts about bicycles.

    The majority of bus drivers in London do their job well. They're not outstanding, they don't go the extra mile and could certainly benefit from a trip to charm school.

    Some are better, they recognise regular passengers. One lovely guy with Arriva on the W16's used to shake people's hands, but his career came to an abrupt end in an accident when he was running light (not fatally I hasten to add)

    But some take the mickey and drag the rest down. Take the woman I had on the W15, funnily enough on September 11th. She closed the backdoors on a passenger as they were getting off, did the same with a woman getting off with a pram, sailed past a bus stop where someone else was waiting to get on, clearly signally the bus, and then slammed on the brakes.

    Then to top it off, for my stop. I ring the bell. iBus says "Bus stopping", legacy sign says "Bus stopping". Bell has rung very loudly - you can't miss the bell ringing on a Wright bodied bus. :) And she ignores the stop. I ring the bell and shout out to her to ask why she's not stopping. She then has to cheek to shout back at me that "You've only just rung it". Fortunately she stops and lets me off, otherwise it's another 10 minutes walk.

    With drivers like that who are clearly not fit for the job, it's a poor show. Me, I personally can't wait for next February when another operator takes over (and hopefully that driver won't TUPE across).

    I've complained to TfL through the website, had a single acknowledgment and then nothing else. A reply from Arriva would have been nice. Hey ho.

  8. not trolling, john

    tfl has a serious information deficit when it comes to designing streets that are safe for cyclists - they really don't seem to know what's safe and what's not - and this results in many unnecessary deaths and injuries - if you read the comments rather than dismissing them you'll see this.

    mr daniels does read his own blog, so it's a way to be sure that the information is available to him. hopefully he'll act on it. ideally, though, he would employ someone with real expertise in this area, who can work to ensure that road designs are safe for cyclists during the design phase.. then we wouldn't have to fight them afterwards..

  9. I'm not dismissing your comments, I feel everyone has the right to reply. I'm just wondering why it's necessary to make so many of them, and repeat yourself from time to time.

    And not in a sarcastic way at all (really!), thank you for your reply to my comment! :)

  10. John -

    It's an unfortunate fact that bureaucracies like TFL contain many embedded interests that strongly resist change. Even when one what one's saying is pretty self-evidently correct, one needs to keep saying the same thing, loudly, over and over to effect any change. Like trying to turn an oil tanker... I agree, it's boring and frustrating and repetitive - but if you cycled in London (it's only by doing it in person that you realise how dangerous it feels) - or ever witnessed the results of an accident between a cyclist and HGV - you'd understand, I think

  11. This would be an example. Campaigners have been warning TFL that this junction is dangerous for years.’s-life-kings-cross-junction-safety-work-was-

    Similarly, now they are warning that the Blackfriars design is dangerous. Most likely, though, some other young cyclist will have to die before TFL takes note.

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