Potters Bar residents plead for 109-year-old ‘lifeline’ bus service to be saved from ax

Residents pleaded for the rescue of a ‘lifeline’ bus service, with countless people counting there for key hospital appointments.

Bus operator Metroline has announced plans to scrap the 109-year-old 84 bus service, which runs through St Albans, London Colney, South Mimms, Potters Bar and to Barnet Hospital, from April 1 .

Metroline cited “significantly rising operating costs” and the impact of Covid-19 on people using the services as contributing factors to the decision.

READ MORE: Get the latest from all over Potters Bar

Last Friday (11 February) it was announced that an agreement had been reached between Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) and Sullivan Buses, who stepped in to cover the majority of the service.

Sullivan Buses has agreed to record a new route covering the section from Potters Bar to St Albans.

However, this means that, for now, the Potters Bar portion in Barnet is still at risk of being cut.

A petition set up to save the bus line, which was organized before Sullivan Buses’ announcement, has garnered more than 6,600 signatures.

And many residents have contacted Herts Live of the impact it would have on them if the road from Potters Bar to Barnet ceased to exist.

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Zuzana Cartright, a 70-year-old resident of Potters Bar, uses the 84 service to get from her home to Barnet.

This is before she traveled to London on the Northern Line for her appointments at University College Hospital where she is currently being treated for leukaemia.

She says it’s unimaginable to think what she would do without the bus service, adding that paying for parking or taxi rides to and from the hospital just isn’t viable for her.

“Right now I’m on chemo, which means I have to go to UCLH [University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust] every day for seven days,” she said.

“There is no parking at UCLH, no way. It’s a congestion charge, no way I can pay it over seven days so I’m going on the 84.”

She added: “If there was a truly reliable system [84] service, there will be more people using it. Many people use the car because they never know if the 84 is on or not and they don’t want to wait an hour at the bus stop.

“It’s a lifesaver for many people going to hospital and even in London.”

Mora and John Bluffield would also be affected by the service cut and said: “We and many of our friends and acquaintances, many of whom are members of the Potters Bar branch of u3a, are going to have a very hard time getting to our hospital go to Barnet General Hospital and Potters Bar Hospital.

“We both have medical conditions which require us to travel to these hospitals regularly and we cannot imagine what we will do if the service to Barnet is not replaced. Currently the 84 bus stops very close from home, so as we have difficulty walking it 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 collect our prescriptions from our prescribing pharmacy.”

Potters Bar Bus Garage

Lorraine Oatley also echoed those views, adding that her daughter relies on the service to get to and from school.

“My daughter has been using the 84 bus service for four years,” she said.

“She traveled regularly from Potters Bar in St Albans to school and the service was generally good.

“After the lockdown the bus service was reduced at peak times to a single decker bus and it was often too full for her to get on at Potters Bar bus station so after a really bad spell and lot of anxiety, I had to resort to driving her to and from school twice a day.

“I complained to the bus company who blamed the bus drivers, but it was infuriating to see double decker buses going around town at midday with hardly any passengers!

“Last September, my daughter decided to continue her education at Barnet College and enjoys the freedom of daily commuting via the 84 bus to Barnet. Without this service to Barnet, my daughter and countless other students will not be able to reach to college.

“It is utter folly that this decision will ultimately result in more cars on the road, adding to the daily congestion along the main street of Barnet. If the bus company had organized itself better and was reliable, more residents would use this service.”

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While news that part of the bus route would be saved, Alia Waheed of Potters Bar said it didn’t go far enough, adding: “Saving half the route doesn’t help much. Frankly , it’s like someone stealing your purse and then giving you a refund for your Tesco Clubcard.”

Cllr Chris Myers has organized a protest against the service cut, which is due to take place at 11am on Saturday February 19 at the Potters Bar Bus Garage.

He says he has never received so many texts, calls or emails about the same issue before, highlighting how valuable the service is to residents in his neighborhood of Furzefield and beyond.

“There must be a ward that serves our nearest hospital,” he said.

“It’s as simple as that. We can’t afford to lose this service, it’s unthinkable that we could.”

Cllr Myers also started the ‘Save the 84 Bus Route’ Facebook group, which has since grown to over 550 members.

While he says the decision to save the Potters Bar section in St Albans was welcome and the right thing to do, his main concern is the impact it will have on residents who use the service at Barnet Hospital .

“It’s a 109-year-old service,” he continued, “that only became unsustainable in the last year or so, which I personally could completely attribute to the pandemic.

“It has been around for a long time because of its good use. I use this service myself, I live on the bus route.”

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He added: “Over the past two weeks I’ve been getting 10, 12 emails a day, phone calls, and people are really, really upset about it.

“Especially older people who depend on this particular pathway to use for hospital treatment.

“This is going to have a huge impact on so many people at Potters Bar and South Mimms.”

A spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said it was ‘still in discussion’ with Transport for London [TfL] and commercial operators on the link between Potters Bar and Barnet.

A TfL spokesperson said: ‘We have had discussions with Hertfordshire County Council since being advised that the current operator will no longer operate Route 84 from St Albans to Potters Bar and New Barnet to from April.

“We are continuing to discuss the most suitable option for the Potters Bar – Barnet section of the route, which, although primarily in Hertfordshire, also serves parts of London.”

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Melvin Z. Madore