Campaign for bus route to service St Albans’ Batchwood Sports Centre

Cllr Sandy Walkington and Paul Spelzini

Cllr Sandy Walkington and Paul Spelzini - Credit: Archant

Tennis players and fitness fans would benefit from a bus service to Batchwood Sports Centre to encourage more residents to use the world class facility, campaigners have urged.

Cllr Sandy Walkington and Paul Spelzini

Cllr Sandy Walkington and Paul Spelzini - Credit: Archant

The £6.6 million sports centre opened in 2014, offering tennis, gym, workout classes, squash and leisure facilities to the community.

But the lack of a bus service to the hilltop location of the centre could be deterring people from using it, particularly those without use of a car.

County councillor for St Albans South Sandy Walkington, Lib Dem spokesman for transport, said he was backing the campaign for a bus service to Batchwood.

He explained that Potters Bar and St Albans Transport User Group, which represents local bus users, had suggested that a simple variation - adding another stop - to the recently altered 84A Metroline route which connects London Colney with St Albans “would do the trick”.

Cllr Walkington said: “Instead of terminating as planned in Firbank Road, they should go round the corner to the sports centre.

“It seems extraordinary that this important council facility in which so many millions of pounds have been invested should have no public transport access.

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“It would help families in the school holidays and older residents with bus passes who want to keep fit.”

Cllr Walkington suggested it would be a good idea if the service could eventually connect all the main council leisure facilities in the south of the district - Cotlandswick, Westminster Lodge and Batchwood - saying, “it could be branded appropriately.

“What’s not to like, particularly if it could be done in time for the school holidays?”

Paul Spelzini, spokesman for the bus users group, said that while Metroline seemed ‘open’ to the idea, it had warned that it might not possible to bring larger and higher buses to Batchwood, because of the tree-lined lane leading to the centre.

He added: “But they have expressed interest in the idea – it has been registered. There is demand there, but no-one is catering for it. The 84A is going to be extended to Firbank Road from July 23 and it would be easy to include a turn up the hill to Batchwood.

“I’ve spoken to [Batchwood Sports Centre operators] 1Life and they were very keen for it to happen, because they have young people who want to use the facility, as well as older people.”

Paul said he was keen for the operator to ‘get on board’ as the route, “would serve the city station for connections for Radlett teenagers, who I understand use Batchwood facilities”.

Sean O’Shea, chief operating officer for Metroline, confirmed the company had spoken to campaigners about the proposed variation but it was not planning to go to Batchwood at this stage.

He said: “We are pleased to receive comments and feedback about our bus services and the changes that we are making to our route 84A from July 23 are as a result of such feedback.

“We look forward to further suggestions, which will enable us to improve the services that we provide.”

• Changes to Metroline’s services include withdrawing route 714, and having route 84A extended beyond St Albans to Luton Interchange, via Harpenden and Luton Airport on an hourly basis, with some journeys extended to serve Firbank Road in St Albans.