Two weeks ago the Transport for London Surface Transport Panel – a sub committee of the TfL board – received a paper on the subject of fare evasion.
“In agreement with the card issuers, TfL has been pursuing a “light touch” enforcement regime in respect of CPC users, with the focus on corrective instruction rather than enforcement action.”
I asked TfL for a copy of its “agreement with the card issuers” but have been told that no such agreement actually exists and that words in the document don’t really mean what they appear to.
TfL tells me:
“The phrase “in agreement” quoted in the Surface Transport Panel paper does not refer to any formal agreement with the banking sector in relation to contactless payment card acceptance on buses. There is no formal written agreement.”
To be clear, officers wrote a report claiming they’d entered into an agreement with the banks, even though they hadn’t.
The report also stated that:
“The situation will be kept under review during future phases of the CPC roll out, including the implementation of capping and eventual roll out of season tickets.”
Anyone reading that might understand “the situation” to refer to the light touch policy which TfL didn’t formally agree but may have informally agreed with the banks, yet TfL tells me the fare-dodgers charter:
“ended in the summer and anybody travelling on our network without a valid ticket risks a penalty fare or prosecution.”
If that’s true, why tell panel members that “the situation will be kept under review” if the situation being discussed had already ended?
Why not tell them that the “light touch enforcement regime” officers claimed – but now deny – to have agreed with the banks had ended the month before the meeting was due to take place?
There are growing concerns around City Hall about the quality and accuracy of information being presented to the TfL board and its committees.
Some are beginning to question whether the board is capable of properly holding officers to account and whether officers are deliberately limiting scrutiny by withholding negative or unhelpful information.
The board is there to represent Londoners and to ensure officers are challenged robustly on their performance. Those I know take their jobs very seriously.
But their task is made more difficult if they’re provided with misleading information as seems to be the case in this instance, or are given very jolly headlines such as cable car passengers are giving it “a score of 93 out of 100” but not told that only 3% are likely to return within a fortnight to a scheme that’s meant to be part of the daily commuter network.
The providing of partial information continues, with this week’s meeting of the full board invited to celebrate 4m Wave & Pay/contactless trips on the bus but not being reminded that this is 19m below target.
Members are already being urged to ask tough questions about road fatalities, they might also want to ask officers whether their commitment to be more open, honest and transparent extends to their dealings with the board.