As we’re now nine months into the Mayor’s flagship cycle hire scheme, it’s worth having a look at what the users are saying – after all, the software bugs and unresolved operational issues should’ve been ironed out by now, right?
First, the verdict of Evening Standard journalist, Ross Lydall. Having received an erroneous bill for £644, Ross spent half an hour on Friday last week trying to find a dock for his hire bike. He visited eight different docks (some repeatedly) before he was successful. Yesterday, further problems culminated in seventeen attempts to get a hire bike to successfully release from its dock.
Users are still having problems with both the call centre and the website. The overflow call centre is still in use and operators are failing to call back hire bike users who have problems. The website is currently asking users to reset their passwords but not acknowledging when users do as they are requested.
Those who had previously been enthusiastic about the scheme are becoming frustrated with its shortcomings:
Everything from more faulty bikes, broken keys, very poor data management on my account, incorrect billing. Final straw today was when I noticed they have removed the call centre telephone number from the contact us page on the main website. When I asked why I was told ‘too many calls’. It’s a pity that what could and should be a flagship scheme filler London is heading down the tubes (pun intended)
I think the over-riding issue, when you look back at posts over the recent months, is that loyal users and supporters have seen a significant deterioration in the service. Whether it’s a system that has already reached its capacity, is developing faults, was built to be obsolete within a short period of time (IT companies do this to keep the money coming in) – it doesn’t really matter. Perhaps additional investment is needed. To talk about extending the scheme when the existing one is now unreliable is silly.
A trawl through Twitter in the past few days reveals the following comments from frustrated users of the scheme:
There we see the disadvantage of having your name associated with a product or service – “Boris” evidently means unreliable, frustrating, untrustworthy, not fit for purpose and not working. If I were Barclays’ marketing department I’d be none too happy at having my name endorsing such a service, either.
UPDATE: The BBC’s Tom Edwards has reported on the continuing problems with the cycle hire system and has also discovered that £5m has been withheld from Serco by TfL; Assembly Members’ previous requests to the Mayor for this information resulted in them being told it was unavailable due to “commercial confidentiality”. The BBC report includes some good shots of cyclists riding straight through red lights at pedestrian crossings at high speed – a phenomenon which I observe on every trip to central London.
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