London's Dial-a-ride for disabled 'not cost-efficient'

A free Dial-a-ride service for disabled people has been providing fewer journeys but operational costs have jumped to £31m, a report has found.

London Assembly's Transport Committee said the "less cost-efficient" service had seen "increased spending and staffing levels" since 2001.

It added some aspects of the service were improving.

Service operator Transport for London (TfL) said the report also reflected improvements made in the last year.

The report, carried out after a number of complaints were received about the service, looked at the performance since 2001 and found the operational cost rose from £18m in 2001-02 to £31m last year, but the number of journeys had fallen.

'Same old problems'

In 2001-02 1.26 million journeys were recorded, which fell to 1.13 million in 2007-08 before rising to the current 1.25 million journeys a year.

More than 300 users were surveyed by the committee for the report.

About 74% of them said they found it "difficult" to get their journey requests and a new computerised system had resulted in several requests being rejected.

And about 65% said the buses were arriving "significantly late" and there was a "long waiting time" before calls were answered.

Image caption About 50,000 Londoners use the free Dial-a-ride service

The committee asked TfL to review its satisfaction survey methods which it said were "misleading".

The report said TfL had taken steps to correct computer problems and introduce local teams to help with bookings. It had also managed to reduce the number of rejected journey requests.

Caroline Pidgeon, the committee's deputy chairwoman, said: "It cannot be right that Dial-a-Ride is providing fewer journeys than it did eight years ago but is spending 70% more on the service.

"The improvements to some aspects of the service are welcome, but it's disappointing that people are still experiencing some of the same old problems with the booking system."

However, a TfL spokesman said: "Dial-a-Ride services are getting better and we are pleased the Transport Committee report reflects the improvements made in the last year."

He said the service had seen an increase in demand and last year completed 76,000 more trips than the previous year. It also schedules 94 out of every 100 trips requested, he said.

"Of course we are not complacent and will continue to make improvements to the service. This can clearly be seen in the performance during the current year which we will continue to build upon," the spokesman added.

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