District wakes up to impact of major bus service cuts

The 653 bus service in St Albans

The 653 bus service in St Albans - Credit: Archant

Concern is mounting about the impact of proposed bus cuts on the St Albans district should they go ahead.

In a bid to save money, the county council is considering removing its subsidy to bus services that run after 6.30pm and on Sundays and are not commercially viable.

There are nearly 120 routes across Herts where the county council pays a subsidy to operators who run services which are not greatly used.

The local buses that would be affected are the 602, 653, S1, S4 and W1 services, several of which provide a link to the city centre from the New Greens Estate, Cell Barnes and Cottonmill.

One concerned resident pointed out that she preferred not to drive into the city centre now she was older and any suggestion of cutting back the service after 6.30pm on weekdays and on Sunday was ‘disgraceful’.

She questioned how London commuters returning after 6.30pm would get home other than by having to pay for a taxi and hit out at the county council for having ‘a low opinion of its citizens, some of whom are old.”

Sandy Walkington, county councillor for St Albans South which takes in Sopwell, urged people to respond to the consultation process ‘before the axe falls’.

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He went on: “The Conservative plans for a blanket end to any subsidy of bus routes running on Sunday and after 6.30pm on weekdays is a bitter blow. It will affect rail commuters coming back from London and trap non-car users and the young.

“After claiming only 200,000 journeys would be affected, Liberal Democrat probing at County Hall identified that the true figure is 800.000. It’s a crude proposal which flies in the face of county council and government policy to get people out of cars.”

So far over 1,700 residents Herts-wide have responded to the consultation.

Terry Douris, cabinet member for highways, stressed that no decision had yet been made. “We want as many people as possible – whether you’re a bus user or not – to respond to the consultation so we can carefully take your views into consideration before making any decisions.”

Consultation closes on October 8 and details can be found at https://consult.hertsdirect.org/bus-services/. Anyone without internet access can get free access at local libraries or request a paper copy by calling 0300 123 4050.