Residents have been pleading for a ‘lifeline’ bus service to be saved, with countless people relying on it for key hospital appointments.
Bus operator Metroline announced its intention to axe the 109-year-old 84 bus service, which runs through St Albans, London Colney, South Mimms, Potters Bar and through to Barnet Hospital, from April 1.
Metroline cited “operating costs significantly increasing” and the impact Covid-19 has had on people using the services as contributing factors to the decision.
READ MORE: Get the latest news from across Potters Bar
Last Friday (February 11), it was announced that a deal had been struck between Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) and Sullivan Buses, who have stepped in to cover the majority of the service.
Sullivan Buses has agreed to register a new route covering the Potters Bar to St Albans section.
However, it means that, as yet, the Potters Bar to Barnet portion is still at risk of being cut.
A petition set-up to save the bus route, which was organised before the Sullivan Buses announcement, has gathered over 6,600 signatures.
And many residents have contacted HertsLive about the impact it would have on them should the Potters Bar to Barnet route cease to exist.
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70-year-old Potters Bar local Zuzana Cartright uses the 84 service to travel from her home to Barnet.
That’s before she travels into London on the Northern Line for her appointments at University College Hospital where she’s currently being treated for leukaemia.
She says it’s unimaginable to think what she’d do without the bus service, adding that paying for parking or taxi trips to and from the hospital just isn’t viable for her.
“At the moment I’m going through chemo, meaning I have to get to UCLH [University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust] every day for seven days,” she said.
“There’s no parking at UCLH, no way. It’s a congestion charge, no way am I able to pay it on seven days so I go on the 84.”
She added: “If there would be a really reliable  service, there will be more people using it. Many people are using the car because they never know if the 84 is running or not and they don’t want to wait an hour at the bus stop.
“It’s a lifeline to many people going to the hospital and even going to London.”
Mora and John Bluffield would also be affected by the service cut and said: “We and several of our friends and acquaintances, many of which are members of Potters Bar branch of the u3a, are going to find it very difficult to get to our hospital appointments at Barnet General Hospital and Potters Bar Hospital.
“We both have medical conditions that require us to attend these hospitals on a regular basis and can’t imagine what we will do if the service to Barnet is not replaced. Currently the 84 bus stops very close to where we live, so as we have difficulty in walking this is very convenient for us.
“We also use the bus to get to Potters Bar High Street for visits to our doctor’s surgery and to pick up our prescriptions from our prescribing pharmacy.”
(Image: Google Maps)
Lorraine Oatley also echoed those views, adding that her daughter relied on the service to get to and from school.
“My daughter has been using the 84 bus service for the last four years,” she said.
“She regularly travelled from Potters Bar to St Albans to school and mostly the service worked well.
“After lockdown the bus service was reduced in the rush hour to a single deck bus and often it was too full for her to get on at Potters Bar bus station so after a really bad spell and much anxiety caused I had to resort to driving her to and from school twice a day.
“I did complain to the bus company who blamed the bus drivers however it was infuriating to see double decker buses going around town mid-day with hardly any passengers!
“Last September, my daughter decided to continue her education at Barnet College and has been enjoying the freedom of commuting via the 84 bus towards Barnet daily. Without this service running to Barnet, my daughter along with countless other students won’t be able to get to college.
“It is utter madness that this decision will ultimately result in more cars on the road adding to the congestion along Barnet high street daily. If the bus company had organised itself better and was reliable, more residents would use this service.”
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While the news that some of the bus route would be saved, Alia Waheed from Potters Bar said it doesn’t go far enough, adding: “Saving half the route isn’t much help. Frankly, it’s like someone stealing your purse then giving back your Tesco Clubcard.”
Cllr Chris Myers has organised a protest against the service cut, due to take place at 11am on Saturday (February 19) at the Potters Bar Bus Garage.
He says he’s never received as many texts, calls or emails on one issue before, highlighting just how valued the service is to residents in his ward of Furzefield and beyond.
“There has to be a service that serves our nearest hospital,” he said.
“It’s as simple as that. We cannot afford to lose this service, it’s unthinkable that we could.”
Cllr Myers also set up the Facebook group ‘Save the 84 Bus Route’, which has since gone on to attract over 550 members.
While he says the move to save the Potters Bar to St Albans section was welcome and the right thing to do, his main concern is on the impact it will have on residents who use the service for Barnet Hospital.
“It’s a 109-year-old service,” he continued, “that has only become unviable in the last year or so which I could personally completely put down to the pandemic.
“It’s been around for a long time because of how well it’s used. I use this service myself, I live on the bus route.”
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He added: “Over the last couple of weeks, I’m getting 10, 12 emails a day, phone calls, and people are really, really upset about it.
“Especially the elderly people that are reliant on that particular route to use for hospital treatments.
“It’s going to have a massive impact on so many people in Potters Bar and South Mimms.”
A spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said it is “still in discussions” with Transport for London [TfL] and commercial operators about the link between Potters Bar and Barnet.
A TfL spokesperson said: “We have been in discussions with Hertfordshire County Council since we were informed that the current operator would no longer be running the route 84 from St Albans through to Potters Bar and New Barnet from April.
“We continue to discuss what the most appropriate option is for the Potters Bar – Barnet section of the route, which whilst predominantly in Hertfordshire, does also serve parts of London.”
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