Once again the frothy cocktail of record profits coinciding with
lousy service brings editorial misery to a major public service
The timing hasn’t helped London Transport (LT). With the Circle Line
down and profits up, London’s mayoral candidates are jostling to debate
the issue of public transport in the capital.
LT is clearly an organisation in transition. At last, overdue
investments are being made and improvements are on the horizon, but too
many hollow promises over the years have rather soured the pitch.
Profitability is hardly a quality to stem the tide of contempt, and an
admission of failure in meeting service standards does nothing to instil
Ironically, according to recent press coverage, only in the area of
information did the Tube meet the standards set by the Government. Even
here, however, there seems to be a woeful lack of consistency - and the
fanfare given to LT’s customer service charter now seems to have little
substance or relevance: it’s just another hollow promise.
All in all, it’s great fodder for the media, and it’s a story that will
run for many weeks to come, particularly with there being so much
political uncertainty about London’s public transport strategy.
Surely, though, it’s not all bad news for the public. There has been
some progress in customer service training, station cleanliness,
ticketing procedures and public safety - even if the Government’s
standards haven’t been met. And LT may even be able to salvage respect
for achievements on the Jubilee line, despite its budgeting nightmare.
But what about some evidence of public consultation and involvement, as
well as a demonstration that the company is listening to the paying
And where is the tangible evidence of improvements that have been made,
not to mention an ongoing demonstration of the benefits that will come
from current investment? Where is transparency, and the reference to
realistic benchmarks that are easily understood by all concerned?
If we knew what to expect, and progress was seen to be made day to day,
there would be much more tolerance and understanding when less palatable
news breaks. There appears to be little evidence of a focus on such