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ULU President “bungling” over London Transport

Sep 24 2001 16:42
Charlie Brown
Students forced to wait several weeks with new postal-only application system for TfL Student Photocards.
ULU President, Justine Stephens, does nothing in TfL meetings other than "looking very ginger".

As students begin to trickle into College to register for the new session many are being surprised to find that ICU are no longer issuing London Transport Student Photocards. Students wishing to obtain the 30% discount on Tube, buss, tram and DLR travel, must pick up an application form from the Registry (and get them to stamp it and a photograph), which must then be sent in the post.

Live! has exclusively seen a copy of a letter from Justine Stephens (the University of London Union President) which is being sent to all UL college student union Presidents. Miss Stephens explains that the “self-issue” system has been withdrawn because Transport for London (TfL) have decided to print the Photocards with digital photographs via an external contractor. TfL claim that the new system will result in a 7 day turn-around for postal applications (rather than 21 days previously). For “practical reasons” student unions cannot issue the new digitally printed Photocards. TfL have also decided that self-issue was “not necessary” because the new system will be oh so quick and efficient.

The new application forms come with a forward from Mayor Livingstone. In it he says, “the waiting time … will generally be reduced from 21 to 7 days”. Amusingly he also cites the recent extension of the validity period when saying that he wants to “give you sufficient time at the start of the academic year to obtain or renew your Student Photocard without having to pay the full cost of fares”. With last year’s Photocards expiring on 30 September (before the start of the Imperial term) no-one in Union circles is expecting any IC students to escape paying full fares for at least the first few weeks of term. The price of the Photocards has also increased to pay for the new super-efficient digitally printed photographs. Each card will now cost £5.

The new arrangements have met with derision among ICU circles. The general feeling is that that ULU President has been “bungling” in her handling of the situation. Several senior ICU figures suggested that Miss Stephens had been a “sucker” by being too quick to believe the 7-day turnaround. TfL’s statement on the matter stated that they would “aim towards a 7-day turnaround”. It is understood that the na?ve Miss Stephens thought this meant a guarantee. So far several Imperial students have been waiting over 3 weeks for their applications to be returned. One observer commented that Miss Stephens did not do very much in TfL meetings other than “sit there, looking very ginger”. Criticism was also reserved for TfL, who one senior ICU figure described as “bastards”.

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Discussion about “ULU President “bungling” over London Transport”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Sep 24 2001 22:27

Do we not have a picture where she's looking very ginger?!?!? At the moment she just looks monochrome.....

Sep 25 2001 11:22

I'd rather keep the monochrome.

Fucking ULU! For god's sake - ICU weren't very happy when I offered to do photocards in house, but guess what - it was a USEFUL STUDENT SERVICE! And I know Matt Hyde didn't slog his guts out to have someone sat at Board meetings being crap.

Why the hell was this woman elected? I bet she's some left-wing nut case who thinks the only things students care about are Kit Kats and Nestle Baby Milk. THEY REALLY HACK ME OFF!!!!!!


3. stef   
Sep 25 2001 12:19

Random point. When this became apparent in June it was last years ULU President who stated he wouldn't do anything because for most students it would mean they would be better off, if the 7 days were stuck too. Very few of us believed it then and when I finished in July it still wasn't known what financial penalties would be given to the new compan issuing LT discount cards if they didn't deliver, nor if they were up to the number of complaints they will receive. Transport for London's handling of telephone enquires is appalling - I have never actually managed to get through to them when I wanted to complain about a seperate matter for some students in July (the phone either rang and rang or went dead).

I know that IC Registry sent a letter in July as a complaint regarding the withdrawl of self issue to London. And for IC, it was a pretty strong letter damning the changes.

Sep 25 2001 13:44

What zone is Cardiff in?

Sep 25 2001 13:57

Given the massive turnout and amazing transparency of ULU elections this is hardly surprising.

Sep 25 2001 19:07

Dear All,

It is with genuine interest that I read this article and the comments that follow it. Just to give you the full information, the 'self issue' scheme was withdrawn in May, for many reasons which are indeed highlighted in a briefing pack which your President will have received from me. May I highlight that I WAS NOT ULU President in May, that I have had only one meeting with TFL, which I requested in order to find out the very reasons for this sham. So, I did not 'bungle' anything. And I am indeed working currently with TfL to try to extend the scheme to Part Time students and ATOC companies.

I am certain you are right Matt Hyde did not work for this to be lost, however, I am sorry but the blame does NOT lie at my door.

If you would prefer to speak directly to me regarding this please do, alternatively you could continue to read a VERY one-sided account of the story which included FEW facts.

All the best,

Justine Stephens,

ULU President,

University of London.

Sep 25 2001 19:15

In medical circles, we call this "touching a raw nerve..."


Sep 25 2001 21:42

Having just spoken to Nigel Fletcher, Vice-President at ULU (who is a nice chap, and I won't have a word said against), I believe that we may have been a little hasty, and so would like to apologise to Justine for any pain this thread may have caused - and invite you all to riot up against Scott Rice and Hamish Common, as the decision was made in May.

Stef - it's not that I didn't believe you, but... well, but.

Sep 26 2001 09:36

Dear Andy,

I appreciate your apology. For those of you who wish to know the full details of this mess I have attached the briefing paper as sent to Union Presidents on 21/09/01 (below).

If you are wishing to apportion blame you may wish to also consider looking toward the Major who is keen to share the 'credit' for the scheme (despite the fact he became Major some time AFTER ULU and the NUS secured the deal!). Alternatively, you could read the briefing below and reach your own conclusions.

With regards to your speculation as to my personal political leaning, whilst I welcome your interest (!), for future reference, I would certainly not catergorise myself as a 'trot' and am not aware of ever being particularly involved in discussions relating to Nestle or indeed Kit Kat.

However, should you wish to debate the commercial v ethical viability of the above I am more than happy to do so.

On the whole, I would assume that students are more than capable of making up their own minds without Students' Unions dictating what they should or should not purchase, my personal choice would not therefor enter into the debate.

I hope this clarifies everything for you, I am happy to answer to any more questions or 'theories' you may have!

All the best,


TfL (LT) briefing paper of recent changes.

The loss of ‘self-issue’

As those of you who had ‘self issue’ will know by now, the system was withdrawn in May 2001. The reasons for this are several:

1) Transport for London (TfL) were due to ‘go to tender’ this year on the appointment of a fulfilment house to issue the card. In doing so, the proposal for a digitally produced Photocard was proposed and, after consideration, appeared to be the best option to TfL especially with extension of the card until 30th September and assurance from the preferred contractor that they would achieve a 7day turn round time for processing applications. TfL were prepared, and did, invest substantial sums of money so that the much improved turn round time could be achieved, which was to the benefit of the majority of registered institutions. Further to this, the new digital system will cope far better with the administrative problems caused by lost or stolen cards, as no new photo will be needed as the images will be stored on the central database, thus cutting down on both return time and cost to the individual in that they will not need to submit a further photo. In opting for the digitally produced Photocard with a central management system it did mean, however, that self issue had to be ruled out for practical reasons.

2) TfL has also experienced numerous difficulties with the way in which institutions were administering the scheme. Cards were initially only supposed to be issued by institutions during the first few weeks of term, thereby allowing for reconciliation by, at the latest, December. However this happened in only a few cases and reconciliation was very protracted and TfL incurred substantial additional costs in resolving these issues.

Further to this, the ‘returns’ (those cards not used) from institutions were often late and disorganised. This led to further cost for TfL.

The ‘new system’

The contract for this new system is signed for an initial 3 years with a view to extend to 5. This system, which, other than the digital aspect and significantly the faster proposed turn round time, is identical to the pre ‘self issue’ deal.

You will have received my earlier email with regards to the contract and the concerns that were raised in reference to the records needed in order to issue the forms.

('The Institutions Obligations' Para 17 (and further to that 1.10 'Records') refers to 'The Institution shall maintain records...' and then goes on to define (1.10 'Records') this criteria.

This had been interpreted to mean that the issuing institution needs to keep such records when administering the TfL form. HOWEVER, following my meeting with TfL I can confirm that I have received verbal clarification that this is intended to be interpreted as '...issuing institutions will have records of their students which shall include the criteria outlined in 1.10'. Therefore, your Union (or College) will NOT NEED TO KEEP RECORDS of the student TfL forms it authorises. The single criteria are that the forms are stamped and signed by ONE OF THE NAMED SIGNATORIES as identified by yourselves within your contract with TfL as with the pre '99 system).

I can now confirm this and have included a copy of the letter from TfL.

Further to this I have received queries from institutions which previously used a stamped signature (rather than a number of named signatories), thereby considerably reducing staff time and costs. It is my understanding that institutions that have PREVIOUSLY used this system and have spoken directly to TfL since the change with specific regard to this, will be permitted to continue. TfL were unaware that this system was being used but is making suitable arrangements with their new contractor.

‘7 day turn round’

I have had conversations with TfL with regards to the initial teething problems. Please advise your students to make individual applications and more importantly INDIVIDUAL PAYEMENTS, as the ‘multiple applications (especially those including one payment for several applications) could delay the processing should one of the applications be rejected.

ULU and TfL

As you will know, ULU and NUS liaise on a regular basis with TfL with regards to the discount scheme. As such it would be helpful if on the occasion you experience any difficulties you could inform us directly. It is vital that we are able to keep track of problems and then can act as a channel both to the other UL Colleges and TfL. TfL have also asked that they be kept fully informed of any problems as they wish to ensure that the issue process runs as smoothly as possible and that students receive their Photocards in the shortest time.

In particular please keep us informed as to your experiences of the ‘new system’, specifically, the 7 day turn around.

With regards to our specific work with TfL this year, we are hoping to mount pressure to work towards extending the card to eligible Part Time students. And with regards to travel generally, to extend the scheme to cover overland travel. We hope that you will support these campaigns and we will keep you informed of our progress.

Yours Sincerely,

Justine Stephens,


University of London Union,

Malet Street,

London WC1E 7HY.

Sep 26 2001 10:26

Two questions:

1. If 'normal' photos are good enough for all other LT cards (incl. "Youth" and "Child" discount cards, why do the student ones need to be digital?) I don't want any crap about it being better for students because you don't have to submit extra photos. The fact is that most students won't lose their photocard. And, in any case, the price difference over last year (?2) is not much short of what you need to get passport photos out of a booth.

2. If ULU acknowledge that the system is a sham, will they apply the same principles and re-introduce self-issue for ULU membership cards?

3. If the Mayor is being a prick about this why not have a chat with the Evening Standard...?

Sep 26 2001 11:32

That was three questions. But they're very good questions, so we'll let you off.

Sep 26 2001 14:08

1. Many many student cards are lost or stolen every year and the turn round on these cards was often over 30 days. The new system will benefit a far greater number of students, I concur that the loss of self-issue for those colleges that had it (few), is a big one. We must also consider though the number of colleges within UL who were not part of the self-issue scheme-of, which there are many. Students at such institutions had to wait for their return cards, in many cases, upto and over 30 days. This scheme puts everyone on the same system. I am not vindicating the loss of self-issue, I am just asking you to see the bigger picture, also bare in mind this contract has been signed for 3 years, with a view to moving to 5. If Council deems it appropriate for ULU to focus on getting back self issue (unlikely due to the contract length) rather than focusing on extending the scheme to part time students and overland travel, clearly we will go with the will of Council. I agree that the ?5 charge is too high and is something we should and will be lobbying TfL on.

2. Yes. Following the completion of Freshers ULU will be sending out batches of the ULU to Unions, the ‘backing forms’ will then be collected and all completed forms will be put on the data base, this we are hoping, will enable us to ensure students are immediately registered to vote. As you will be aware, this is somewhat different to the process last year and I hope you will agree, is an improvement.

3. In terms of the Mayor, we are in the process of scheduling a meeting with him (awaiting confirmation from his office), following which we will be releasing our discussion both to UL unions and indeed to the press.


Sep 26 2001 14:46

1. 30 days is pretty bad. But if there was a will, this could have been improved without denying self-issue. Besides self-issue would (hopefully) relieve pressue on the system, as I guess it is mainly the larger Colleges that offered it.

2. Wow! Well done on sorting this out. (You predecssor was a bit of a pain about this.)

3. Good.

Sep 26 2001 16:05

While we have the attention of the ULU president, I would like to ask a simple question that many IC students have, Why dosen't the ULU card have an NUS logo? If it did it would be a great incentive for IC students to get that card. Have you tried to claim that student discount in a cinema window and then tried to explain why IC are not part of the NUS and why we should still get that student discount?

Sep 26 2001 17:23

Aw, where's Bob Kiley when you need him?

"I bet she's some left-wing nut case who thinks the only things students care about are Kit Kats and Nestle Baby Milk."

You always did have a way with words mate...

Sep 26 2001 18:14 indeed did you John. But thankfully no more.

17. Sam   
Sep 26 2001 21:07

why are you reading this? i think Andy said it best up there ^^^

Sep 27 2001 09:06

ULU cards. It could be that the reason that the ULU card does not have the NUS logo on it is because not all colleges within UL are in NUS, as I'm sure you are aware!


Sep 27 2001 13:11

Long may it stay that way!

Sep 27 2001 14:34

Hear, hear!

21. Sam   
Sep 27 2001 17:28

Personally i enjoy arguing with Topman staff about discounts. When i start explaining to them the traditional IC/NUS debate, their eyes glaze over and i generally find prices plummet, just to get me out of the shop.

Sep 27 2001 17:35

I've never had any problem using my College swipe card to get a discount.

Getting my ICU card accepted is a bit more tricky, though...:-)

Can't comment on ULU as I never bothered to get one of their cards.

Sep 27 2001 21:18

Really? Getting discounts was about the only factor Sen & Ben could come up with in support of the ICU cards....

24. Sam   
Sep 27 2001 22:38

I know it's deeply sad for me to mention this, but you cannot withdraw your tankard from the Union Bar unless you have a Union card.

This does create a problem, because you cannot purchase a jug of cocktail without said Union card....

SO i ask you... What if i want to drink Sex on the Beach out of my tankard????

25. stef   
Sep 28 2001 11:06

Using ICU Cards. Most places will except (the only place I have had problems is at Heaven). Always go to the till with the youngest looking employee or the one who looks as if they have only just started. If they don't give you the discount ask to see the manager and moan at them or explain to them in great depths the ICU/NUS thing. Flirting also helps:)

I have a nagging feeling that the 1997/1998 ULU Card had NUS on it.

Sep 28 2001 17:39

Some Universities will only let you into their SU's if you have an NUS card. Also one of the reasons I was given for not being able to get a cheap cinema ticket was that the NUS subsidised student tickets for that cinema company. I would say that most students wouldn't go to the length of explaning to a cashier the whole ICU/NUS debacle. Do the students at IC even know why we are not with the NUS?. Regarding the NUS on the ULU card logo, I do vagulely remember the NUS logo appearing on the ULU card one year. Most uni's in ULU are with the NUS so I don't see why it should not appear on it.

27. stef   
Oct 04 2001 14:42

perhaps if the NUS did subsidise the cinema tickets that could give a good reason why its in such financial trouble..the truth is though it has had a recent history of electing quite useless Treasurers

28. Polly   
Oct 09 2001 18:36

If we can get Adult and Child photocards at tube stations, why not Student?

Closed This discussion is closed.

Please contact the Live! Editor if you would like this discussion topic re-opened.


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