Performance at London’s Dial-A-Ride service has slipped so badly that service users are having to wait up to 7 minutes just to get through to the booking line.
The service is used by mobility impaired Londoners, many of whom would struggle to use the rest of the public transport network, and allows them to make local trips including to the shops and GP.
Last year bosses at Transport for London admitted they had “much more to do” to improve the service after a London Assembly report raised concerns about the performance of several pre-booked ride services.
However TfL’s latest performance data suggests the situation is getting worse, not better.
In the third quarter of 2017/18, callers to the Dial-A-Ride booking line saw the time it took for their calls to be answered soar from just under 4 minutes in the same period last year to almost 7.5 minutes.
This rise in waiting times came despite a 10% drop in call volumes – down from 157,287 in 2016/17 to 142,715 this year.
It also appears to be behind a dramatic rise in the number of callers giving up, with the call abandonment rate rising from 10.9% in Q3 2016/17 to 17.3% in the latest period.
Over the entire year the call abandonment rate stands at 12%, up from 9% for the whole of 2016/17.
A report to TfL’s supervisory board blames the rises in both wait times and abandoned calls on a “reduction in staffing levels and high levels of short-term and long-term sickness.”
It promises that “additional temporary staff have been hired, with more to come in January” and that the extra staff should see “the abandonment rate returning to below the 10 per cent target.”
Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member, said: “Over the years the performance of Dial-a-Ride has widely fluctuated and it is depressing that once again we are witnessing another drop in its performance.
“It is simply unacceptable that people are typically having to wait seven and half minutes simply to get through to the Dial-a-Ride service.
“Being able to easily get through on the phone is an integral part of its service.
“It is time the Mayor ensured that this vital service was delivering to an acceptable standard.”
TfL bosses have apologised for the poor performance.
James Mead, TfL’s General Manager Dial-a-ride Fleet Service, said: “We’re very sorry that some of our customers have struggled to get through.
“We are working hard to put this right and to provide a better service by hiring more staff and looking at other areas where more can be done.
“Additional staff are being deployed now and we expect to see improvements very soon.”