A COUNCIL transport boss has urged passengers to “use or lose” a district hospital bus service.
Transport operator Nexus has begun consultations on a plan to withdraw a taxi-bus service it provides in South Shields, because of the very low number of passengers using it.
The TB504 makes four journeys a night each way between South Shields town centre and Horsley Hill via Commercial Road, Boldon Lane and South Tyneside District Hospital.
The service was launched in April 2010 to provide new community links using a large taxi rather than a bus because demand was always expected to be small.
Coun Jim Foreman, Labour for Cleadon Park and the council’s lead member for transport, believes Nexus could have done more to advertise the service – which takes passengers to the “front door” at the Harton Lane hospital.
And he urged commuters to put their views forward during the consultation process.
He said: “The first question I asked when I had a meeting with Nexus over this was, has it ever been advertised? I was told ‘not really’.
“This taxi-bus goes right up to the hospital entrance, and I don’t think enough people know about it.
“Secondly, the timetable doesn’t match up with hospital visiting times, which is very important.
“My feeling is that it would be a real shame to lose it, and in a sense it’s a question of ‘use it or lose it’.
“It’s also an ideal mode of travel for people planning to get the Metro, as it stops at Chichester and Tyne Dock stations.
“It fits in perfectly with the idea of integrated transport. We need to fight to retain it.” Four years after its launch, Nexus says the number of people using the TB504 has fallen so low – with no one at all being carried on most journeys – it cannot justify continuing to pay for the service,
It will be consulting with passengers on the impact of withdrawing the service from May, and advising of alternative services in the area.
Helen Mathews, head of business development at Nexus, said: “Passenger numbers on the TB504 are very low, and we are consulting on withdrawing the service from May.
“We estimate withdrawal will affect 12 to 15 people, and we’ll be trying to talk to them directly about the alternatives they could use.
“Nexus must regularly review the services we provide and, in this case, we feel the cost has become too high for the number of people using the taxi-bus, but we want to speak to passengers and understand what withdrawing the service will mean for them.”
The TB504 is one of more than 20 bus services in South Tyneside Nexus pays for using funding from local councils, in order to fill gaps between commercial services run by Stagecoach and Go North East.
The full route is from South Shields town centre to Horsley Hill via Commercial Road, Chichester Metro and Temple Town to Tyne Dock Metro, then Boldon Lane and John Reid Road to South Tyneside Hospital, then Harton Lane to the Nook and Centenary Avenue to Horsley Hill Square.
There are a number of other buses that passengers could use along different parts of the TB504 route, including the 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 12A, E1, E2 and E6 and X20.
Consultation will continue until Tuesday, March 11, after which feedback will be considered and a final decision made.
Details are available on board the TB504, from the Nexus Travelshop in Fowler Street, South Shields, online at www.nexus.org.uk or by ringing 0191 20 20 747 (between 7am and 9pm).