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Tricia Hayes is the Chair of London TravelWatch, the statutory transport watchdog for the capital. A former civil service Permanent Secretary, Hayes is now a non-Executive Chair, Board Member, and advisor, and a Member Designate of the British Transport Police Authority.

Prior to leaving the civil service in May 2023, Hayes had spent most of her 35-year career in the Department for Transport, where she led work across the sector, including on roads and motoring, local and urban transport, transport decarbonisation and the future of mobility, and on aviation. From 2020 – 2023 she worked in the Home Office, leading work on crime in policing before taking up the Second Permanent Secretary role in 2021.

She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation and was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath in the New Year Honours List 2021.

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The London Society put some questions to the Chair of London TravelWatch about the current state of London’s transport system.

How you would compare transport in London with other European cities?

I think that London has one of the best transport networks in the world. I think there's nothing to compare to it in terms of the scale and the scope. So overall, very positive and very full of pride. But generalisations only get you so far. London is such a diverse place that people have very different experiences of transport in London, depending on where they live and where they travel. So outer London and inner London can be very different.

London is basically a Victorian transport system, with aging stock. Do you think that is part of the issue?

You're right in that other cities have more modern transport systems and London's going to have to work hard to keep up with that and not get left behind. But London is also an innovator in so many different aspects of transport, certainly in terms of ticketing and things like Oyster contactless cards.

What kinds of complaints are people coming to London TravelWatch for?

We get a lot of complaints about penalty fares, fare evasion, and generally issues around the cost of travel. We get a lot of complaints about bus drivers going too fast. Sometimes drivers breaking sharply, or being too rude. A lot of this is very fixable. It’s around the choices that people are making in how staff engage with customers.

Are we a nation of complainers?

Firstly, I think it's a real shame if disruption is normalised. I want people to be cross and to say that's not good enough. There's a feeling right now where people are starting to plan for it, or just shrug their shoulders and get on with life.

Why is the digital exclusion and disadvantage in London Transport campaign important?

Technology and digital communications have been fantastic, but we can't assume that it makes life better for everyone. We had an online survey of Londoners and asked if there had been an occasion where they've not been able to buy a ticket without a smartphone or an internet connection. And we were surprised that one in six Londoners who answered our survey, said they've had problems buying a ticket. That's actually a big chunk of Londoners. There are people who are digitally excluded, either because they're older, or they're disabled, or they've got a lower income. And I think transport providers need to make real efforts to make sure that those people have access to the transport system, just like everybody else.

The other thing that we've campaigned on in the past is around the use of cash. Now, people are using cash less, but we were surprised at how many people in London don't have a bank account. It’s at least 160,000 Londoners who don't have access to a bank account. So cash is very important to that group of travellers. We need to make sure that people who don't have a bank account can still travel.

We’ve all read or heard horror stories of disabled people being stranded on station platforms. What can you do to help?

We know this is a big issue. We think that people with disabilities travel less than non-disabled people by a third. So they're not getting the same use of the transport system as people without disabilities. We would like to see staffing be a huge part of the solution. Staffing is an enormous part of accessibility for people with disabilities, whether it's helping people on trains or helping people move around the station. We want people to be on the station, visible, trained and easy to find. When things go wrong, we want to see them properly investigated.

What about safety for women, the elderly and the vulnerable? What improvements should there be?

This is such a such a huge issue, not just for safety of the women, but also to encourage vulnerable people to use our transport networks. Visible staffing on the network is a really important part of that. Signposting of where to go if you need help, even if there's not a person, on the station or on the train - where's the help point? Visibility and information can help people feel a lot more confident.

One of the campaigns we support is access to public toilets. What are you doing to make sure public toilets are staffed and properly maintained?

I really feel this because I've had three babies, and I still break out in a cold sweat when I think about being very heavily pregnant on London's transport networks. This is especially an issue for people with disabilities, and can add to the stress and anxiety which can lead people not to travel. In the long term we would like to see more toilets designed into London's network transport network as it develops, and to be a core part of the transport offering as it changes.

In the short term,  we want to see toilets which are free to use and easy to access. I think we would agree that at the minute we're not there. We need to see better signage. Clear opening hours, real time information about closures and clarity on when closures will be reopened. It’s back to staffing again. So staff who can help people find the toilets if they need them. If for some reason toilets need to be closed, we would expect them to be equipped with radar locks. So that those with disabilities have radar keys and can access them even when they can't find a member of staff.

One of the main complaints for London travellers are the delays on the Central Line. Trains are being upgraded as part of a £500 million programme to modernise the line, but all stock will not be revamped until 2029.

This is is a big issue for London travel, and we are talking to TfL and the Commissioner about the Central Line. We need to understand what the solution is, and do a better job of telling people what's going on. TfL needs to have a stable, long-term financial settlement from the government, so they can put in place good value, robust plans for addressing the biggest problems on its network.

What are your personal aims and objectives going forward?

I've taken this job because I want to make a practical, positive difference to the experience and people who travel in London. To build a transport system for London that helps people get through the day with the minimum possible stress and anxiety, because goodness knows there's enough other things which are stressful.

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