Bus services to Colney Heath, Smallford and Tyttenhanger are axed without warning
PUBLISHED: 06:00 08 January 2016
Vital village bus services have been cut leaving residents dependent on public transport facing long waits for buses or huge costs if they want to travel.
The 304 Centrebus service which previously served Colney Heath and Smallford no longer stops at either of them and while the 305 service has been diverted to take in the two villages, it only stops a handful of times during the day.
In nearby Tyttenhanger, the 305 service has been reduced from three stops a day to just two with no service at all in the afternoon.
To add insult to injury, there has been no indication of any changes on bus stops - several of which still have the June 2014 timetable up.
Centrebus, which has no-one to respond to media enquiries, says on its website that it has made changes to the 304 service and timetable ‘to ensure its sustainability.’
It now runs from Hitchin to St Albans only instead of continuing on to Welham Green via Colney Heath and Smallford as it did until the beginning of this month.
The 305 has replaced some of the services in Smallford and Colney Heath but instead of the previous seven daily stops, it has been reduced to four with long gaps between services.
Colney Heath resident John Allen, of Cutmore Drive, accused Centrebus of cutting the service by stealth and said he had only found out about it by word of mouth on New Year’s Eve.
He went on: “It’s a service which was used by the older generation and teenagers and a service which, in my mind, has been run down by the operators. It has been very unreliable and you didn’t know whether it would turn up or not.”
John, 53, who for health reasons is unable to drive, said he was very reliant on the bus service to visit his doctor or go to hospital, appointments. “I am now left in a situation where I could be marooned in St Albans.”
He pointed out that a taxi from the village into St Albans cost between £12 and £15, meaning residents could be left facing a £30 charge for a round trip.
Colney Heath district councillor Chris Brazier, said no-one had been told that the services were being cut and no new timetables had been put up on bus stops. He went on: “I find it remarkable that Centrebus is reducing bus services at a time when we are supposed to be reducing carbon emissions.
He added: “One of the worst days will be Wednesday when people like to go into St Albans for the market.”
Fellow district councillor Jamie Day, who lives in Tyttenhanger, also said there had been no prior notice and the village would now only have two calls in the morning and nothing in the afternoon..
One resident, a diabetic, had already had to spend £20 on taxis to collect his insulin from St Albans when the bus had not turned up as expected.
Cllr Day added: “The more the services are cut, the less convenient they become and so the less they are used which becomes a downward spiral for public transport.”
It emerged this week that the county council stepped in to ensure that some services continued to run to Colney Heath and Smallford after Centrebus told them that it was withdrawing the St Albans - Colney Heath - Welham Green section of the 304 route.
A spokesperson said: “The county council was notified of this decision and despite a tight budget, has been able to provide some additional journeys on its contracted service 305.”
He added: “We continue to work with local bus operators to minimise the impact on passengers and our funding of the 305 service shows our commitment to ensure that essential day time links are maintained, particularly those serving rural areas.”