The quiet death of evening and Sunday bus services for St Albans
Changes to bus services have quietly came into effect following Herts County Council's decision to press ahead with £1.5 million cuts programme.
As a result of the county council cutting funding, contracted bus services no longer run after 7.30pm Monday to Saturday and have been scrapped completely on Sunday except for routes that directly serve hospitals which will run until 7.30pm.
Green Party protestors gathered outside St Albans City train station on Monday to express their anger at the changes which they say will hit the young and the elderly hardest.
Linda Lennard, a Green Party spokesperson, said: “In this day and age it is unacceptable that such basic services are being cut. It’s going to affect people who can’t afford a car, shift-workers and the poor.”
She added that “a greater reliance on cars will increase pollution, damage the environment and disadvantage both young and elderly residents”.
But it’s not just the poor who are likely to be adversely affected by the changes according to residents of Marshalswick.
Sabra Swinson, whose husband works as a banker in the City of London, is having to pick up her husband from the station every night.
She said: “St Albans is commuter-ville and these changes will mean that there will be many more cars clogging up the road.”
Sabra said she was appalled at how the changes have been implemented. She went on: “It’s all being done very quietly. The only reason my husband found out was that he noticed a small sign at the bus stop.”
She added: “Huge numbers of people commute from around here.”
Despite two public consultations revealing widespread opposition to the changes, a number of services are being affected including the 653 from the New Green Estate to Jersey Farm, the S4 from St Albans Station to Cottonmill and the 658 from Borehamwood to St Albans.
St Albans district councillor Simon Grover said: “The county council has huge reserves, only a fraction of which they could use to properly support buses in Hertfordshire. They should prioritise the needs of people who rely on services like this.”
County councillors agreed to push ahead with the proposed cuts in May despite condemnation by NHS trusts, 11 petitions with 9,000 signatures and concerns of disabled or elderly bus users.
A Herts County Council spokesperson said that a social media campaign had been in place to warn the public and added that although some people would need to find alternative travel, “we don’t anticipate a large increase in traffic on our roads.
“We recognise that this will unfortunately make travel harder for some people. We’ve done our best to work with local bus operators since the public consultation to see if they are able to pick up any of these services, which in some cases they can.
“We have also tried to make sure that essential day time links remain available.”