Bus service cuts in St Albans threaten hospital access

Buses in St Albans town centre

Buses in St Albans town centre - Credit: Archant

Axing evening and Sunday bus services could have a devastating impact on patients and their families using local hospital services.

County councillor and prospective parliamentary Lib Dem candidate for St Albans, Sandy Walkington, issued the warning after seeing the response from the East and North Herts Hospital Trust to consultation on the proposed changes to bus services.

The county council is considering cutting a number of services across Herts after 6.30pm from Monday to Saturday and all day Sunday in a bid as a cash-cutting measure.

It applies to journeys which the county council supports and would not be provided otherwise by the commercial sector. Among the local services affected would be the 602, 653, S1, S4 and W1.

The East and North Herts Hospital Trust, which takes in the QE2 in Welwyn Garden City and the Lister in Stevenage, has voiced its concern on a number of issues relating to how patients and their families can access the two hospitals.

It points out that the growing elderly population, the centralisation of specialist services and the extension of core working hours, particularly at GP surgeries, would suggest that there is a need for a more efficient rather than a reduced bus service in Herts.

Cllr Walkington has now written to the leadership team of the West Herts Hospitals Trust - which runs St Albans City, Hemel Hempstead and Watford General Hospitals - asking if they also have made their views known during the bus consultation period.

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He said this week: “People in St Albans get sent to QE2 and Lister Hospitals. The East and North Herts Trust was particularly anxious over the axing of the evening and Sunday services on the 300/301 route which also links St Albans and Hemel Hempstead, so a crucial service linking four local hospitals.

“But living as we do in the West Herts Trust area, getting from St Albans to Watford Hospital must be top of mind. It’s bad enough now by public transport involving changing in Watford unless people are able to walk. A taxi could cost £25 for people who are already in distress because of their own illness or that of their family and friends. Now various of the connecting services are under threat.”

He went on: “GP surgeries too are increasingly offering appointments after 6.30pm. Too bad for people without cars.And what happens to hospital staff, who have seven day shift patterns and often have to travel to and from work in the evenings and weekends?

“Although St Albans has one of the highest car ownerships in the county, the last census showed that 14 per cent of households don’t have access to a car, concentrated particularly in the Batchwood, Sopwell and Cunningham areas. These are the vulnerable people being let down by these bus cuts.”

Responses to the bus cut proposals go to a meeting of the county highways panel on Tuesday, November 4.