Published: 26/11/2009 00:00 - Updated: 30/11/2009 09:42

Hospital bus woes boost hopes for Stortford tram system

Written byBy James Burton

PLANS for an ultra-light railway in Bishop's Stortford are going full steam ahead - and not a moment too soon for bus users, who say they are struggling to reach hospital appointments following cutbacks.

This week, as project leader Mark Ranger launched a website explaining his tram scheme and inviting questions from the public, residents on the Havers estate hit out at the havoc created by the loss of Excel Coaches' 333 service.

Despite efforts to save it, the route was axed in early August because - according to Excel - not enough people were using it.

Town councillors urged the Department of Transport's regional traffic commissioner to step in, but received a reply saying the operator had given adequate notice and was within its rights to terminate.

The 333 was the only bus travelling directly to both the Herts and Essex Community Hospital in Haymeads Lane and Harlow's Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Since it disappeared, Bishop's Stortford's remaining buses have had trouble accommodating the extra passengers. Residents say the buses are now leaving sick people behind because there is no room for them.

Jan Pearson, who lives in Patricia Gardens, tried to catch the 308 and then walk from the Hockerill crossroads to her appointment at Herts and Essex. But despite arriving at the bus stop on time, she and six others were not allowed to board. Instead, she had to fork out for a cab.

She said: "I now realise the only sensible way to get from my house to an appointment is by taxi, but that's not really acceptable. What provision is being made for people on a limited income, for whom this is not a viable proposition?

"We were told that a minibus service would be introduced serving the local hospitals to make up for the shortcomings resulting from the decimated 333, but it hasn't happened. Why didn't the bus company reorganise the much-reduced service to include them?"

Mr Ranger, who first aired his ultra-light railway plans in July, believes the system could end Bishop's Stortford's transport woes.

He is looking for feedback on the project, which would be run on a non-profit basis and owned by the community, before setting out to raise £25,000 for further studies.

Engineers Pell Frischmann, based in Southmill Road, say they are prepared to back him. For more information, visit www.bsulr.org.uk .
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