South Tyneside Council bosses bid to improve hospital bus services
Council bosses are to seek improved bus services to the borough's main hospital after more than 1,000 people signed a petition.
South Tyneside Council has agreed to ask Nexus to consider the concerns raised by the South Tyneside Public Transport Users Group (STPTUG).
The group presented a petition to the council calling for a direct service linking Jarrow and Hebburn to South Tyneside District Hospital folling the closure of the Jarrow Walk-In Centre..
Wendy Gascoigne, group chairman, said since the closure of the centre, many residents are facing long journeys to the hospital.
She said it can take up to an hour-and-a-half to get from Hebburn to the hospital on the number 88 or 88A bus services.
Ms Gascoigne said: “When the walk-in centre was closed we were promised an improved bus service to the hospital, that hasn’t happened.”
She also said the service bus means passengers have to walk for 10 minutes up the hospital’s driveway which is difficult for elderly and ill people.
The Jarrow Walk-In Centre closed in September 2015.
Despite an 18-month protest - which included demonstrations - by campaigners, South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) closed the centre to make savings of up to £2m annually.
The CCG had to meet six recommendations - one of these was to provide travel links to the new Urgent Care Hub in South Shields.
Council leader Iain Malcolm said the service takes so long because the bus visits various areas as it is a “commercial service” that wants to “pick up as many people as it can”.
He said the issue needed to be looked at urgently especially as a new alliance between South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS trusts means future patients may need to travel to Sunderland.
Coun Malcolm said: “We need to make sure Nexus understand the need to review bus services on South Tyneside with particular reference to the mid-Tyne area because of the difficulty people are having in accessing South Tyneside Hospital.”
He added that suggestions the council pays for a specific hospital route would be “difficult” as “we cannot pay for a secured route along a commercial route because we will be penalised and take to court by the commercial operators”.
He said: “That’s not to say the issue is insurmountable.”