Beleaguered bus company faces scrutiny over St Albans service

Uno bus

Uno bus - Credit: Archant

The boss of under-fire bus company Uno defended the firm’s performance when he appeared before St Albans district councillors last week.

Philip Waters, chairman of Uno, responded to questions from the council’s local services scrutiny committee and addressed issues raised by local passengers about the bus services in the district.

In particular, passengers are concerned about the punctuality of the 653 service from Jersey Farm to St Albans city centre in the early morning.

They have also raised concerns that Uno buses have not been leaving St Albans City station between 6pm and 7.30pm and from 8.30pm onwards, as scheduled.

Mr Waters explained – as reported in last week’s Herts Advertiser – that Uno had just introduced a new timetable for the 653 service with the aim of improving reliability.

The changes build on the introduction of the 653 service in September last year linking Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield with Jersey Farm and St Albans city centre. Mr Waters offered to share performance monitoring data on bus times, breakdowns, staff sickness and attendance levels with councillors.

Changes are also being made by Uno to the timings of the S1 route from Cell Barnes to St Albans city centre to help improve reliability.

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The committee is recommending that the council work with local bus companies to set up a user group to make communications with passengers easier. In addition, it is proposing that the work is carried out through Network St Albans which works to improve and promote sustainable forms of transport.

Chair of the scrutiny committee, Cllr Chris White, said: “Uno bus services provide important routes with numerous travel opportunities for local residents and people working in St Albans.

“However, passengers have found that these services are not as reliable as they could be. Uno is trying to address this by introducing new timetables.

“The changes will require further monitoring by Uno and this committee to ensure that punctuality improves and passengers’ needs are met.”

Cllr White added: “Councillors were keen to see an improvement in communications and we are pleased that Uno is willing to help set up a user group.

We have also had assurances that emails from councillors representing their residents’ concerns will be dealt with more effectively.”

Mr Waters said: “As an operator, we are committed to the work being carried by Network St Albans to improve public transport in the city and help relieve the chronic congestion issues in the centre of the city.

“We are very aware of the importance of providing as reliable a service as possible in order to encourage residents to use the bus and alternatives to the private motor car.

“We have worked extremely hard to fashion new timetables for the 653 and S1 routes to make them more reliable.

“The new timetables, which were introduced at the beginning of the week, appear to be settling in well but the revised service will have to be monitored extremely closely in the coming days and weeks.

“We believe that the 653, which is a combination of the city routes S2 and S3 with the Hatfield to Welwyn Garden City 603 service and provides a whole host of new travel connections, will become a vital part of the transport infrastructure of the centre of the county.”