Transport for London bosses have been accused of getting “carried away” with new technology while failing to deliver key services after announcing potential trials of a new app-based, “demand responsive,” bus service.
The service will involve TfL and private operators running an “on-demand minibus ordered through an app, or perhaps a service running on a semi-fixed route that can be diverted to pick up individual passengers.”
The agency says the trial would allow it to examine whether “the latest innovations in ride-booking technology can be used to create a new TfL bus service that complements the capital’s existing bus network.”
Michael Hurwitz, TfL’s Director of Transport Innovation, added: “We want to understand the potential of new TfL demand responsive services to improve public transport for all Londoners.
“We are currently exploring the feasibility of a small demand responsive transport trial in areas of outer London where car dependency is higher and other forms of public transport are less viable.”
While acknowledging the merits of trialling new forms of transport, Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon expressed “fear that TfL are getting carried away with the potential wonders of new technology and failing to ensure they get the very basics right.”
She pointed out that in Dial-A-Ride, TfL already has a ‘demand responsive’ bus service, yet the service’s elderly and severely disabled user-base has had to contend with a “deteriorated” service due to poor staffing levels.
Performance has fallen so low that Dial-A-Ride users are having to wait up to 7 minutes – up from just under 4 minutes last year – just to get through to the booking line.
The rise in waiting times came despite a 10% drop in call volumes – down from 157,287 in 2016/17 to 142,715 this year.
With many local Tube and rail stations lacking step-free access, Dial-A-Ride is often the only way older and mobility-impaired Londoners can make journeys using public transport.
Despite long-standing Assembly concerns about performance, TfL managers have yet to deliver any sustained improvements in the service offered and in January had to issue an apology for the latest failures.