A confession: when the Animal wrote to the Mayor a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t really expect to get £3.11 back as a mark of appreciation for getting into work on ‘snowday’. I also didn’t really expect a letter from the Mayor: I’ve worked in the Mayor’s office and I doubt this administration gets significantly less correspondence than its predecessor. But I did think I might get a response to the political point I was trying to make about Johnson’s decisions on that day. No such luck.
A response arrived today from a TfL customer relations officer: a perfectly nice reply, but I would have expected that the points I was raising would have been better responded to by City Hall, not TfL. Interestingly, according to TfL, my letter (which should have been received in City Hall on 5th February) wasn’t passed on to the non-politicians at TfL until the 19th.
“The Congestion Charge for 2 February was suspended, under emergency powers held by Transport for London, to enable motorists making essential journeys to do so without extra costs. It should be noted that due to the conditions on the roads we advised all motorists only to make journeys where absolutely necessary and to take extreme care if doing so.”
Fine, except that isn’t what the Mayor said. He said the suspension of the congestion charge was, and I quote, ‘a gesture of my appreciation for those who have travelled to work this morning’. Nothing there about essential journeys. Indeed, the Mayor’s office press release, which I think came out at about midday on 2nd February, carries no advice about not driving whatsoever. Did a press officer perhaps work out just how confused that would make it look? TfL continues:
“For safety reasons (as the settled snow hid patches of black and white ice), all bus services in the Capital were suspended.”
Quite. Great conditions for driving, eh? The reply then goes on to describe the levels of services operated on each rail mode, which I’ll skip here.
“While a Customer Charter scheme is operated by London Underground, London Overground and DLR, refund claims will only be honoured under the scheme where the delay or suspension was due to an incident within the operator’s control. As this was not the case with the heavy snowfall (the worst seen by the Capital in 20 years), we are unable to offer refunds for affected journeys. It is worth noting that the cost and complexity of trying to implement mass refunds on this scale would ultimately be borne by fare and taxpayers, as Transport for London is a publicly funded body.”
The think is, I completely agree with that last sentence, which is why I didn’t really want £3.11. But this response misses the point I was trying to make. I wasn’t asking for a refund (TfL services got me most of the way to and from work on the day, which is all I can ask for really), but a gesture of appreciation. I want to be appreciated, goddamit, and Boris doesn’t want to know.
“In addition, as neither the Mayor nor Transport for London has any authority over mainline train operators, unfortunately we cannot intervene on their refunds policy.”
This is real issue, to which I can’t see any obvious solution: as the purchaser of an all-mode Travelcard, if the mode I rely on mainly goes down on a regular basis, there is no possibility of my getting any sort of refund, as I would be entitled to if I bought a point-to-point rail season ticket.
“I would suggest if you have any queries about Southeastern’s refunds policy, you may be better placed to contact them directly.”
I do like people who round off a letter with a bit of humour. Ask Southeastern for a refund for my TfL-issued Travelcard? The very thought has me in stitches.
I don’t think I’ll pursue this one further, but it was interesting to see that City Hall don’t want to own up to the politics of the situations that the Mayor has created.