Dial-a-Ride: Blind people struggle to book TfL services that help them stay active

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Pauline Durkin and Jonathan Goode said they spent hundreds of pounds on taxis in the past month

Blind people using one of Southwark’s best services for the visually impaired said they were spending hundreds of pounds a month getting there because they couldn’t book the free Transport for London (TfL) service for people with disabilities.

Pauline Durkin and her partner Jonathan Goode and Verna Morris all go to the Blackfriars Settlement activity day for the visually impaired on Friday afternoon at the center just off Blackfriars Road.

Pauline and Jonathan live in Streatham and said they had been unable to reserve a seat on a TfL Dial-a-Ride minibus for around a month. On that day alone they had spent £35 on a taxi to Borough and expected to pay the same for the return journey. During the month they had spent over £400 on taxis.

Dial-a-Ride is a free ride service set up by TfL for people with disabilities. Users must register and can book one trip per week, which TfL says it prefers to book in advance. Some disabled and blind people also get eight or nine discounted taxi rides a month, depending on which borough they live in, but Pauline said these run out very quickly. It’s also hard to find friends to drive them, as people naturally work during the day.

Verna, who lives in Lewisham, also struggled to get Dial-a-Ride services at Blackfriars Settlement, and said she tended to use the buses instead. Tina Johnston, who runs Blackfriars Settlement sessions for the blind, said she was worried about Verna’s safety getting on and off the buses.

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TfL said it responds to 95% of booking requests made by people traveling to Blackfriars Settlement.

James Mead, TfL’s managing director of Dial-a-Ride, said: “We are sorry to hear that some of our members are reporting that they have been unable to book trips with us at certain times and will contact us at them to discuss their needs.Dial-a-Ride is a multi-occupancy service designed for short local trips, which means we have to handle bookings very carefully.

“The vast majority of our members can use Dial-a-Ride without issue, but unfortunately there are times when we are unable to provide rides. This usually happens at peak times and on longer journeys where stopping to pick up additional passengers can mean that existing passengers don’t arrive when they need to be.

“We advise members to use our next day or advance booking services and, in the rare event that we cannot meet a request, we are always exploring other options to complete part of the trip, and Taxicard offers subsidized taxi and minicab travel.”

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