Mind the digital gap: survey finds 1.5m Londoners ‘left behind’

Tube strikes notwithstanding, transport watchdog London TravelWatch has today published a report that shows 1.5million people in the capital are unable to buy a bus, Tube or tram ticket because they can’t use or don’t have access to a smartphone or internet connection.

Tapped out: 1-in-5 Londoners do not have digital access to be able to use discount fares and payment systems

And 20per cent of Londoners say that they have paid more for their travel because they are not able to buy tickets online or by using mobile apps.

“These ‘left-behind Londoners’ feel cut off from using public transport because they are digitally excluded or disadvantaged,” London TravelWatch said today.

“The impact of this is particularly significant, given the current cost of living crisis, with rocketing utility bills and food prices.”

TravelWatch’s survey found that the left-behind Londoners are typically older (55+), more likely to be disabled and are often on a lower income. These characteristics often overlap, creating multiple barriers for Londoners who just want to get around the capital.

“Many disabled and older Londoners have embraced new technologies in recent years,” said Michael Roberts, London TravelWatch’s chief executive. “But our research shows that a digital-first transport network disadvantages some of our most vulnerable citizens.

“A one-size-fits-all approach by transport providers does not work for a large section of London’s population. That can’t be right and it’s why we’re calling on decision-makers to provide a system that is accessible, affordable and inclusive. Nobody should be disadvantaged financially based on how accessible the technology is.”

TravelWatch is also calling for Transport for London staff to be more visible and available at stations, to help those who need assistance. There should be training for staff and mentoring for people who want to learn how to use different ticket options.

According to the research carried out for London TravelWatch:

  • Only 1 in 5 digitally excluded and disadvantaged people agree that the increased use of technology (such as smart cards, websites, apps or mobile devices) has made it easier to get around London
  • Nearly 4 in 10 within that group say that the increasing use of technology in transport has actually made things harder
  • Older people (27% of those 65+), people on lower incomes (18% of the C2DE socio-economic group, or skilled working class, working class, and non-working) and disabled people (18%) are more likely to feel this way
  • Digitally excluded and disadvantaged people have much less access to services that help them to travel around London – things like planning information tools, payment platforms and real-time info on timetable changes or journey disruption
  • Support from staff (22%) and information from ticket offices (21%) are the top two ways that digitally excluded and disadvantaged people access the help they need to get around the capital

The research report calls for a number of key actions from transport -roviders, including:

  • Transport authorities and operators should maintain non-digital options to allow freedom of travel for digitally excluded and disadvantaged Londoners
  • Train companies and Transport for London should make sure staff are visible and in accessible locations, confident and ready to support people who need it
  • Train companies should implement a dedicated travel mentoring scheme that supports people who are digitally excluded and disadvantaged
  • Online discounts should also be available offline – no Londoner who is digitally excluded or disadvantaged should be financially penalised when they travel
  • When planning changes, transport authorities, operators and policing bodies need to work with specialists in digital inclusion to make sure information is as accessible as possible.

Platform for action: London TravelWatch is calling for more staff to be available at stations and bus stops

Caroline Stickland, CEO at Transport for All, said: “This report comes right on time for disabled Londoners, as passengers are increasingly forced to rely on digital planning and ticketing. But if the barriers to these digital options are not addressed then disabled Londoners risk being excluded from transport completely.

“A ‘modern’ transport network must be one that is accessible for all.”

The London TravelWatch report has been welcomed by TfL. “We remain committed to ensuring that all our customers can get the right information at our stations and bus stops,” said Mark Evers, the chief customer officer at TfL.

“We know people who are digitally excluded are those most at risk of missing out on information about concessions and affordable fare options. We are taking steps to promote affordable options to people who are digitally excluded so they can make the best choices around how to pay for travel.”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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2 Responses to Mind the digital gap: survey finds 1.5m Londoners ‘left behind’

  1. Chris Flynn says:

    Surely TFL will keep the Oyster cards scheme going? As presumably closing it would mean they’d have to refund people’s balance and deposits…!

  2. Ian Kierans says:

    Perhaps TfL can provide the equipment and assistance at key stations/premises for individuals to set up accounts to enable them to obtain cheaper fares?
    Maybe in Croydon the Tramlink office can be used – Might take the weight of the under resourced Libraries that are not funded with the 15% increase!

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