Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cycle Hire - It's Gone Critical

The Standard reports that Serco has been put on a critical improvement plan by TfL.

The report claims that since the cycle hire scheme was launched in July last year 14,937 people have received refunds for access or usage charges. Last month almost 600 people had money withdrawn from their bank accounts for journeys they had not taken. The Mayor commented, "It is important to note that over five million journeys have been taken on scheme cycles, meaning refunds have been issued for some 0.3 per cent of all journeys."

How do they know this is not the tip of an iceberg? How do they know that it's not 3% wrong charges rather than 0.3%?  If you use the bikes infrequently or irregularly, chances are that you'll have forgotten exactly which days you used a bike by the time your credit card statement comes through. Unless Serco know the cause of the incorrect charging, we won't know if it's safe to go back to the docking stations. What should we be looking out for? How many of these 15,000 refunds are due to bikes failing to release, or bikes failing to re-dock properly, or any other cause?

Jenny Jones also pointed out "the biggest complaint seems to be the failure of bikes to release and people having to walk ages to find one that works." This is a problem that this blog has identified in the past. It's not only that the bikes don't release, it's that there's no indication why. You don't know if your key is faulty, or the bike is faulty, or the dock is faulty, or the whole system is faulty.

The most important thing now is to restore public confidence in the system. We need to be sure that Serco know what's gone wrong and have fixed it. We also need proper diagnostics on the individual bikes and docks. It should be immediately obvious to a user when a bike or dock is faulty, so that we don't have to try five different bikes before we successfully release one.

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