Bus passengers have urged transport bosses to improve links to South Tyneside District Hospital amid fears vulnerable patients are being driven away.
South Tyneside Public Transport Users Group (STPTUG) has expressed its concern about the lack of a direct service linking those in Jarrow and Hebburn to the borough’s main hospital, based in Harton Lane, South Shields.
They say the problem was exacerbated by the closure of the Jarrow walk-in centre last September, with services transferred to a new Urgent Care Hub, at South Tyneside District Hospital.
Yesterday, the group handed in a petition addressed to the leader of South Tyneside Council, Coun Iain Malcolm, at Jarrow Town Hall with more than 1,000 signatures on it, calling for a better bus service to the hospital.
Although the council has no direct control over bus services, it has vowed to take up the matter with transport bosses.
As well as concerns over the link to the hospital, the group has raised questions over the distance from the bus stops outside the hospital to the main entrance.
Since the Jarrow walk-in centre was replaced, many people have found the journey by public transport very difficultWendy Gascoigne
Wendy Gascoigne, the group’s chairwoman, said: “Since the Jarrow walk-in centre was replaced, many people have found the journey by public transport very difficult, particularly those with children, the elderly and those with mobility problems.
“The bus service 88/88A can take well over an hour from Hebburn, and is not always on time.
“Many cannot afford taxis, and there have been instances when neighbours have had a collection to pay for someone in urgent care to travel to South Tyneside District Hospital.
“There is also the issue of the distance from the bus stops in Harton Lane to the hospital reception and the high cost of car parking and lack of spaces at peak times.”
Coun Allan West, lead member for transport and housing, said: “We have met with members of South Tyneside Public Transport Users Group and listened to their views. The petition will now go through our normal processes. It is our role as a council to listen to the views of our residents and ensure that we act on their behalf.
“Although the council has no control over the buses directly, nor do we fund routes, we can work with our partners at Nexus and in turn the bus operators to add our support to the concerns raised by the South Tyneside Public Transport Users Group.”