Bus route ‘saved’ in St Albans by councillor - for now

Cllr Aisleen Lee at Bricket Wood

Cllr Aisleen Lee at Bricket Wood - Credit: Archant

A ‘stay of execution’ has been secured for an axed bus route but passengers are being warned to use it or lose it.

Uno dumped the 652 bus from Bricket Wood to St Albans in March, citing financial losses.

But outraged villagers - some of whom faced social isolation as a result of the withdrawal - demanded the service’s return.

People contacted St Stephen parish councillor Jay Baillie, of Bricket Wood, who along with county councillor for St Stephen’s Aislinn Lee, set about solving the problem.

Jay said: “My mum travels on the bus two to three times a week and she was nagging me rotten about it, as the bus people didn’t give passengers enough information about it stopping. They were given very short notice.

“Apart from the elderly it also affects shift workers, as they cannot afford to park in St Albans.

“One of the reasons the route struggled was because it was so unreliable. The buses were always breaking down, and a lot of elderly people think it was left to run down.”

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A survey of passengers showed that people feared they would lose their ability to travel independently as taxis are not an affordable alternative.

One respondent said: “Without this bus service Bricket Wood residents would be isolated.”

Another said: “I am a now a non-driver and infirm. The bus allows me to still have independence and I would be lost without it.”

To save the route - temporarily - Cllr Lee stepped in to meet some of its running costs from her locality budget.

Each Herts county councillor has a £10,000 budget to spend on worthwhile projects in their community which promote social, economic or environmental wellbeing.

Cllr Lee said: “The 652 route has always been a fragile service. Because it is a commercial route, it depends on bottoms on seats.

“I was told that Uno had resigned from the route, because it wasn’t making any money.

“So I asked the county council for help as even though it’s a commercial route, it’s critical for villagers in Bricket Wood and Park Street.”

As a result, she has given about £6,000 from her locality budget and the council allocated Section 106 money - planning agreement funding - to top the grant.

The route is now being run as the 361 bus by Metroline, but only temporarily.

Cllr Lee explained: “The route will continue until the end of August, and a new tender will be put out.

“This is a real ‘use it or lose it’ situation! We need to demonstrate that this route can be made viable. Only if we can prove this, between now and September, do we get a chance of getting a permanent reliable service for our area.”