A morning with Dial-A-Ride

Posted: 13 Mar 2015

Dial-A-Ride is delivered in Hackney and Haringey on behalf of TfL. Dial-A-Ride is a free, door-to-door transport service for people with a mobility difficulty and/or disability - and for people who have difficulty in using public transport. It’s great for getting out and about.

For more information about Dial-a-Ride in London, how it works, what it can and cannot be used for - plus how to apply, please see the TfL website pages here.

Michael and Ray

“I have often heard people mentioning that they are signed up to Dial-A-Ride, and that it is free; but, I have never understood who would benefit from this service or why. Having spent a morning with Mr Ray Khan, one of our team of drivers who works on Dial-A-Ride, I find the service incredibly special and am delighted that HCT is part of the delivery for TfL.

Ray starts his morning just ahead of 8am to ensure that he carries out all the checks on the vehicle, is clear on the route that he is taking and the customers that he will meet and collect. The ‘meeting’ is a key aspect of the service; it is personal to each individual and Ray clearly has this down to a ‘T’! As we set off, on a cold January morning, the minibus soon warms up with Ray’s personable character, full of happiness and looking forward to his day ahead.

Meandering through the traffic, there is reassurance by Ray’s excellent driving; the patience on the road during rush hour and the sheer ability to know where he is going (every day is different!)

As we arrive at Mr Michael Putinas’s flat, Ray explains that sometimes Michael will walk up the road to board the mini-bus, and then there are other times that Ray will meet him at his front door. No matter what, Ray will call upon arrival, to ensure that he isn’t just waiting out in the cold. I spent some time talking with Michael who very kindly shared his story …

Michael was diagnosed approximately 10 years ago with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), which is a progressive disease of the muscles. Slowly he will lose his ability to fend for himself, but at the moment he is ‘managing’. He was on his way to see his carer, who he meets regularly. Michael said that since he was diagnosed he has continued as much as possible to live life happily. He does not let his condition get him down, despite it placing natural restrictions on him. He lives alone and really values the Dial-A-Ride service – ‘the drivers are great. I really get on with Ray, he is a good guy’. We dropped Michael off to his carer and he said his farewells; until the next time.

The next stop was a lady who was going to her day centre to mingle with her friends, have a bit of lunch and play bingo... Mrs Eileen Sacker is a wheelchair user, and said that she is really grateful for Dial-A-Ride. Having lowered the ramp, Ray gently pushes Eileen onto the vehicle. He finds the appropriate clamps for her wheelchair and secures it in place, double-checking that there is no room for maneuver. We were chatting about her day ahead and how much she values the service that we offer and commended Ray on his kind and caring nature! Once we dropped Eileen off, we move onto the next pickup.

Eileen and Ray

We picked up several other people during the morning, some of who were going to the centre that Eileen went to, another lady went to Tesco’s to do her shopping and another went to the shopping centre in East London. They all equally valued the service that they get and are pleased that they can access it to get out and about, rather than sitting in doors.

Ray had a total of 20 pickups and drop-offs for the whole day that he was working. Having spent the morning with him, I was exhausted! Not only do the drivers have to be polite and patient and ready to speak to customers, they also have to ensure that they are safe in vehicle, whether this be using the seats or a wheelchair. For some people that we pick up on Dial-A-Ride, they may not have seen anyone for a number of days since the last pickup, so it is vital that all drivers having a caring nature.

I feel honoured to have been on the service to see, first hand, the service that customers get from HCT ... and, to share this with others.