St Albans bus cuts may isolate parts of district

SADC are pulling subsidy for some St Albans bus services in 2018.

SADC are pulling subsidy for some St Albans bus services in 2018. - Credit: Archant

Warnings that St Albans bus cuts may isolate whole swaths of the district have been issued by a shocked public transport group.

Next year St Albans district council (SADC) will be pulling its subsidy for the evening services of the 34 bus to Markyate, and the 657 to Redbourn and Wheathampstead.

Further cuts will then be implemented for 2019 with the axeing of the 657 Redbourn, and 304 Wheathampstead, Sunday services.

Local authorities, including Sandridge, Wheathampstead, Redbourn and Harpenden parish councils, were consulted over the changes. Replacement forms of community transport are still being considered.

Chairman of the Potters Bar and St Albans Transport User Group, Paul Spelzini, said these services are essential for disabled and young people.

“There are always young people who can’t drive and don’t have any option but to use the buses.”

He argued the nighttime economy in St Albans, such as restaurants and bars, will suffer because young patrons or employees will be unable to travel to the city centre.

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Travellers and commuters looking to use the bus as a linking connection from the train station will also feel negative affects: “In the future we might have a nine to five service, it’s not a great situation.

“It’s going to leave everybody without connections, there are going to be a lot of annoyed people.

“Some areas get a lot of buses, some areas don’t have any service at all, it’s all being done on an ad hoc basis - but you need a balance.”

It was a “shock” to be told of the plans, he said.

Head of planning and building control for SADC, Tracy Harvey, said the decision was made following a subsidies review: “Data shows that use of the services has declined significantly in recent years while the cost of the subsidies has increased.”

She added: “As a public body, we have a duty to ensure value for money for our residents and it was felt that our spending on these services was difficult to justify any longer.”

The figures claim only two people use the 657 evening bus, on average per service - she says the subsidies are no longer value for taxpayers’ money and SADC will save £74,000 each year.