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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Thanksgiving Service

A First London VNW in the courtyard of
St Clement Dane's Church in London at the
Public Transport Workers' Service
of Thanksgiving
Events have, in the past week or so, come past so quickly I am afraid I have been slow to post them on my blog.

How to start - last weekend we had the Tour of Britain Cycle Race London stage and time trial taking place in the centre of town. During this week we announced a further initiative on roadworks in London with the Mayor launching it at Palestra, and then today there was the annual Public Transport Workers' Service of Thanksgiving at St Clement Danes' Church in Central London organised by Winston Dottin.
I am going to major on the last one as it represents a powerful occasion in which staff come together to celebrate their multi-cultural past and express their hopes for the future.

It was of course in the early 1950s that London Transport sought people from the West Indies to fill vacancies at operating and engineering grades. Today the Revd David Tudor gave a tremendous sermon in which he charted the conditions which these British passport holders from the West Indies arrived in Britain. They were less surprised by the weather than they were by the reaction of some to their arrival.
Yet they formed the backbone of London's transport operating staff and many achieved very long service over the years.

For my part I told the congregation that in 2012 once again Londoners will rely on its transport workers to deliver and also that they will be supported by the entire extended TfL family.

Next year is full of big events - the Queen's Diamond Jubilee starts the summer off before we get into the Olympic Games and London will be full of people throughout.

Everyone, those people relying on public transport to get to the venues, to work or for recreation, will rely on London's transport staff. Today's event reminded us that London does so every day. They do during bad weather, they did during the civil unrest only a few weeks ago and they will during the whole of 2012.


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.


Sunday, 4 September 2011

Return to Imber

Heeding the severe warning of the sign on the left, the first wave of
Routemasters venture onto the military road

The third annual pilgrimage to liberate the abandoned village of Imber, on Salisbury Plain, evacuated in 1943 and never returned, took place yesterday.

This village, like several others, was commandeered during the war. In this case it provided a training facility for US troops ahead of D-Day. Only a very few or the original inhabitants remain alive. But once a year thanks to the efforts of local people and with the co-operation of the Ministry of Defence, the military road across Salisbury Plain is opened. A service takes place at St Giles' church, and relatives can visit their ancestors buried in the churchyard.

An ever-developing bus network allows people to visit the village and also see the views of abandoned tanks, firing ranges and of course the specially-built target buildings installed for military training. In more recent times the persona of the village has been more like urban Northern Ireland. This year the network ventured even further to outlying villages and with the arrangements more widely publicised, an increasing number of people visited.

As already described across on The Omnibuses Blog a fleet of Routemasters delivered the service - thanks to the combined efforts of Bath Bus Company, Stagecoach, First and led by Peter Hendy. The service is properly registered for the day and the Traffic Commissioner for the South West, Sarah Bell, inspected the operation personally. This year Routemasters 1005, 1510, 2344, 2657 and 2735 were involved.

The opportunity to visit this site attracts a good many local people, many of whom have their own stories of the village and its occupants. Real-time aural history abounds on the buses, in the village and at the church.
Once more it was blessed with good weather and enjoyed by all.


Thursday, 1 September 2011

Notting Hill Carnival

This year's Notting Hill Carnival passed without major incident thanks to the hard work of the Police, organisers and many others.

Although I have worked at this event on many occasions this was my first one for TfL. Once again I am hugely impressed by all the work that goes on the prepare for this event. The road closures, diversions, bus service alterations and the supply of information to everyone were all done really well by an experienced set of teams.

There were relatively few arrests, the transport system catered for all the Carnival-goers, and people generally had a good time.

This is my opportunity to thank everyone who was involved, the time they gave up across what is the last bank holiday weekend before Christmas, and for making it such a success.