Blind people using one of Southwark’s top services for visually impaired people have said they are shelling out hundreds of pounds a month to get there because they cannot book Transport for London (TfL)’s free service for the disabled.
Pauline Durkin and her partner Jonathan Goode, and Verna Morris, all go to Blackfriars Settlement’s activity day for people with visual impairments on Friday afternoons, at the centre just off Blackfriars Road.
Pauline and Jonathan live in Streatham and said they hadn’t been able to book a place on a TfL Dial-a-Ride minibus for about a month. That day alone they had spent £35 on a taxi to Borough and were expecting to pay similar for the return journey. Over the course of the month they had spent more than £400 on taxis.
Dial-a-Ride is a free transport service TfL put on for disabled people. Users have to register. TfL say they prefer trips to be reserved in advance, and users can make one advanced booking trip a week. There are no limits on next-day and same-day journeys.
Some disabled and blind people also get eight or nine discounted taxi journeys per month, depending on which borough they live in, but Pauline said these get used up very quickly. Getting friends to drive them around is also difficult, as people naturally are normally working during the day.
Verna, who lives in Lewisham, has also struggled to get Dial-a-Ride services to Blackfriars Settlement, and said she tends to use buses instead. Tina Johnston, who manages the Blackfriars Settlement sessions for blind people, said she worried about Verna’s safety getting in and out of buses.
TfL said they fulfil 95 per cent of booking requests made by people who go to Blackfriars Settlement.
James Mead, TfL’s General Manager of Dial-a-Ride, said: “We’re sorry to hear that some of our members are reporting that they haven’t been able to book trips with us at certain times, and will be reaching out to them to discuss their needs. Dial-a-Ride is a multi-occupancy service designed for short, local trips, meaning we have to manage bookings very carefully.
“The vast majority of our members are able to use Dial-a-Ride with no problems, but unfortunately there are times when we’re not able to complete journeys. This is usually at busy times and on longer journeys where stopping to pick up additional passengers might mean existing passengers don’t get to where they need to be on time.
“We advise members to use our next day or advanced booking services and on the rare occasion we can’t fulfil a request, we always explore other options to provide part of the journey, and Taxicard offers subsidised taxi and minicab travel.”