The first batch of 90 green Dial-a-Ride vehicles has now arrived in London. Dial-a-Ride is the door-to-door service that opens up London and provides a lifeline for those not able to travel without assistance.
The buses will allow older Londoners and those with disabilities to make vital journeys across central London in modern clean vehicles. They meet the Mayor’s tough air quality standards – four months before the central London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) comes into operation. Emissions will be reduced further as the majority of these vehicles have technology to stop engines unnecessarily running when the bus is not moving. The wider fleet of around 300 will continue to be upgraded ahead of the expansion of ULEZ to the North and South Circulars in 2021.
Dial-a-Ride caters for more than a million journeys a year, has high customer satisfaction and an exemplary safety record. The new vehicles will improve these further by creating an enhanced experience with better heating, air conditioning and a smoother journey. The vehicles also have automatic braking, to reduce the risk of collisions involving Dial-a-Ride vehicles.
TfL is taking action to reduce operating costs across all of its functions while maintaining the safety and reliability of London’s transport services. These Dial-a-Ride vehicles are an example of this. TfL has used its experiences of previous Dial-a-Ride vehicles to design out known issues or faults. This, along with the improved reliability of the modern engines, will reduce the ongoing maintenance and operational costs of running Dial-a-Ride.
James Mead, General Manager of Dial-a-Ride, said: “Dial-a-Ride is part of the city’s social fabric, making sure vulnerable Londoners are not isolated in the community. These vehicles also contribute to the wider societal benefit of cleaning up the air for future generations.
“Our customers tell us how highly they value the service and this is borne out in our customer satisfaction scores. Additionally, where we can we support people who may have thought they were dependent on Dial-a-Ride to travel on their own with travel mentors. We give them the tools they need to experience greater freedom when getting around.”
Beena Bhatt, Dial-a-Ride user, said: “I have been using Dial-a-Ride for around five years. I use to it to visit the Brahmin community centre, sometimes to do my shopping and also for my exercise classes. If you are home alone it is an essential service. It takes you on door-to-door trips that you can’t do on your own.
“The vehicles are very comfortable. They have air conditioning for when it is hot in summer and they are well heated in the colder winter months. And you can’t forget the drivers - they are always nice and can’t do enough to help you.”
Acquiring the vehicles not only benefits vulnerable people in London but also boosts areas outside of the capital. Mellor, the manufacturers of the Tucana II vehicle, is based in Rochdale. The order supports 100 jobs at its base in Lancashire and 20 high-skilled roles at its engineering facility in Scarborough, as well as apprenticeship opportunities. The contract has the additional benefit of creating a ripple effect through the supply chain in the North of England.
John Randerson, Managing Director of Mellor, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with TfL on their Dial-a-Ride scheme. It will be great to see the Tucana II in service around London and we’re excited to be supplying one of the most recognised capital city transport operators in the world.
“The Tucana II leads the way in providing the sector with a vehicle that’s economical to run and delivers an enjoyable experience for passengers and drivers while meeting the environmental challenges of modern cities.”
The door-to-door service is one part of assisted transport in the capital. TfL’s future vision is for customers to be able to access these services via a single, easy-to-use platform, potentially part app-based, that would also encompass subsidised travel by taxi for older and disabled passengers and free travel to hospital for those with mobility problems.
Improving the accessibility of the transport network is integral to helping disabled Londoners lacking confidence in getting from A to B in the capital. TfL’s travel mentors assist people with how to use the information at bus stops, stay safe when travelling and use the ramp to board. The mentors have provided such assistance to more than 3,000 disabled Londoners to help them travel independently using London’s increasingly accessible mainstream network over the last 12 months.