Transport for London and London TravelWatch

This fact sheet is aimed primarily at people who have a problem with the way Transport for London (TfL) or London TravelWatch has dealt with their complaint and may be considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman.

As with most other types of complaint, it is always best to raise it with the organisation which provides the service first. This might be TfL or a bus, tram or rail company.

You can contact Transport for London at https://tfl.gov.uk/help-and-contact/.

London TravelWatch represents the interests of transport users in and around London and can consider complaints about the main line railway services and all aspects of TfL's transport services, including:

  • London Buses
  • London Underground
  • Docklands Light Railway
  • Tramlink
  • River boats and ferries
  • Santander cycle hire
  • Emirates Air Line (cable car river crossing)
  • Oyster Card
  • Victoria Coach Station
  • Dial-a-Ride

You can contact London TravelWatch at www.londontravelwatch.org.uk/contact/contact_us.

What sort of complaints can the Ombudsman look at?

  • Penalties issues for congestion charge and low emission zone – We may look at a complaint if TfL has unreasonably failed to exercise discretion to cancel a penalty. But some complaints may be out of our jurisdiction because there is a statutory right of appeal – see separate fact sheet on complaints about the congestion charge and low emission zone.
  • Penalties issued for traffic contraventions, red routes, bus lanes, etc – We may investigate complaints about traffic enforcement where a complainant is claiming there were mitigating circumstances which should mean that it would be reasonable for TfL to cancel the penalty. See separate fact sheet on complaints about the enforcement of parking penalties.
  • Delays in registration for discount or exemption from congestion charge – We may consider complaints about the failure of TfL to deal with applications for residents’ discount or vehicle exemption in a reasonable time.
  • Roads and streets – TfL is the highways authority for large parts of the road network in London. We may consider complaints about road layouts and traffic management, highways drainage, defective traffic signals, parking provision and restrictions, etc, provided the complainant does not have an alternative legal remedy.
  • London Buses – We may consider complaints about bus routes, location of bus stops and shelters, and complaints such as failure of bus companies to ensure that engines are switched off when buses are on a stand and noise and vibrations caused by buses. We may also consider complaints from passengers about poor service or oyster cards, but these type of complaints are usually best made to London TravelWatch (see above). Complaints about fixed penalties for non-payment of fares are outside our jurisdiction.
  • Other public transport in London – We will normally consider complaints about the operation of public passenger transport run by TfL, unless there is a legal remedy available to the complaint.
  • Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles – The Public Carriage Office is part of TfL and is in our jurisdiction. We may consider complaints from taxi drivers about the operation of its disciplinary procedure and from passengers about the lack of effectiveness of that procedure.

How do I complain?

You should normally complain to TfL or London TravelWatch first. There may be two or more stages to the complaints procedure depending on which part of TfL or type of service you are complaining about. You will usually have to complete all the stages before we will look at your complaint.

Then, if you are unhappy with the outcome, or TfL/London TravelWatch is taking too long to look into the matter – we think 12 weeks is reasonable – you can complain to us.

You should normally make your complaint to us within 12 months of realising that something has gone wrong.

To complain to the Ombudsman phone our helpline on 0300 061 0614 (8.30am to 5.00pm, Mondays to Fridays). You will be able to discuss your complaint with one of our advisers. You can text us on 0762 481 1595.

You can complete an online complaint form.

If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?

Some faults we might find are that TfL:

  • failed to take action to re-programme traffic signals that allowed pedestrians insufficient time to cross a road and were dangerous
  • failed to consider moving a bus stop which was causing neighbouring householders unnecessary problems
  • continued to pursue a motorist for payment of a penalty after representations had been accepted and the PCN cancelled, and
  • wrongly clamped a person’s car when enforcing a penalty against the previous owner of the vehicle.

What happens if the Ombudsman finds there was fault?

It depends on the nature of the fault and what the consequences are for you. If the impact on you is significant we may ask TfL to refund penalties or bailiff charges and pay compensation for the time and trouble you were put to in dealing with the matter.

Examples of some complaints we have considered

The complainant drove a car with very low emissions. If she had registered the car with TfL she could have received 100% discount from the congestion charge. However, she did not register it and received penalties when she drove in the charging zone without paying the appropriate charge. TfL refused to cancel the penalties. She complained to us but we were unable to help her because TfL had considered what she had to say in mitigation but had decided it was reasonable to expect her to have checked the regulations which were published on its website before she entered the zone without paying the charge.
The complainant was registered as a resident in the congestion charging zone and drove a leased car. The car was damaged in an accident and was taken off the road and a substitute car used. The discount was transferred to the substitute car. The complainant told TfL when the car was repaired. TfL failed to make a note of the change and in consequence the leasing company, as owner of the vehicle, was issued with a number of congestion charge penalties. By the time the company told the complainant about the penalties, they had increased, and in accordance with the lease, the penalties were charged to the complainant's bank account and the lease company added an administrative charge. This caused the complainant to go overdrawn, his mortgage payments were not made and he went into arrears. TfL accepted that the penalties had been wrongly issued and refunded them all. It agreed to provide a financial remedy to the complainant for the bank and mortgage charges which had arisen. It also provided a financial remedy for the stress, time and trouble to which he had been put.

Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please contact us.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman provides a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result the Ombudsman aims to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.

 March 2017

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