Bad news if you are calling Transport for London

I’ve got fairly lukewarm views of Transport for London’s phone helplines, mainly due to my experience attempting to report graffiti on bus stop shelters.

One of the things I’ve discovered along the way is that if I rang the phone number advertised on bus shelters to report graffiti, people at the other end would take graffiti reports. Then nothing would happen and it would turn out (more than once) that the graffiti report had been lost in the system and it was really my fault for having rung the wrong number.

Silly me for thinking the number on the bus shelter was the one to ring or thinking that someone taking a graffiti report meant I had got through to the right place.

Oh no, there is instead a completely different number I should ring about graffiti on bus shelters – but it is one that is never put on bus shelters. Clever hey?

But at least my phone calls didn’t cost too much. That won’t be the case in future, for as Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon has unearthed:

Recent changes to contact centre numbers at TfL (which involve the withdrawal of numbers starting with 020 7 and the introduction of an 0843 number), have led to the following harsh effects:

– Mobile phone users paying significantly more than landline users to obtain basic transport information. A call lasting 5 minutes can now cost as much £2. This is despite the fact that about one in seven households in London are “mobile only”, and that for many people the need to obtain travel information only occurs while they are actually travelling.

– A poor overall service for users of the information service. Claims made by Boris Johnson that the new telephone service would lead to improvements in the handling of calls at times of disruption have not occurred. Indeed during the last few days of November 2010 and the first few days of December 2010 (when industrial action took place on the tube) there was a significant increase in the length of calls and a surge in the number of people abandoning calls in frustration at having to wait so long. In the second week of December 2010, when there was severe weather and industrial action the travel information helpline again completely deteriorated in the service provided to Londoners…

Most people need travel information on the go. Londoners should not be ripped off by public bodies for obtaining vital information.

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