A bus company has been attacked by a Labour MP for “salami slicing” services after it emerges 80 journeys a day have disappeared under a rerouting programme.
Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson has criticised Go North East for cuts to bus services across Tyne and Wear, citing a study by Passenger Transport Executive Nexus.
Sunderland is shouldering most of the burden, the MP says, with changes to routes and timetables to the 35, 35A, 35B and 35C services.
The MP says her office has fielded calls from people worried about links to schools and health facilities.
She adds it is difficult to compare the new route map and timetable information with previous versions and people have concerns that the re-routing of the 35 services will significantly disrupt journeys to nearby GP practices in Silksworth, Herrington and Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Children may also have to take longer journeys to schools such as the Venerable Bede Academy because they will have to change buses.
Go North East said the changes will simplify services, but four variations have already been made to routes 35, 35A and 36 since November.
The MP said:
“The volume of service changes implemented by Go North East this week is likely to cause a great deal of confusion and inconvenience to many people.
“I have received many emails and phone calls from worried constituents expressing their concerns over changes to the route 35 service.
“Go North East say this is about simplifying things, but there have been 15 variations in this route since 2011 and I cannot see how this constant chopping and changing is making things simpler. The new route maps and timetables are also presented differently from older versions.
“People are understandably angry about the fact that four services have been reduced to three. Across the region estimates show that as many as 80 routes a day will be cut.
“Go North East should explain why these changes are being implemented and how they are in the best interest of passengers.
“This salami slicing of services shows exactly why we must introduce a London-style bus network with stable routes, oyster style ticketing and fines for operators when they fail to live up to their promises.”
Managing director of Go North East Kevin Carr, said the changes were introduced after a consultation with Nexus and customers.
He said many of the services now travelled closer to shops.
He said: “We are the number one bus operator in Sunderland and it’s really important that we adapt our services to meet customers’ needs.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 30 Jan 2015
A blind man in South Tyneside says he was asked if he could “get a bus” under a controversial new vetting system for ambulances.
Former lorry driver Alan Tully, 65, lost the sight in his left eye 25 years ago to glaucoma and has very minimal sight in his right.
He regularly books ambulances for treatment at Sunderland Eye Infirmary and a diabetic clinic at South Tyneside District Hospital.
But when he called last Friday to book an ambulance for an appointment at Sunderland Royal Hospital next month, he was told he was “not entitled” to one – and advised to take a taxi or bus instead.
The move comes after a new eligibility system introduced by the North East’s clinical commissioning groups.
Mr Tully, of Winskell Road, Simonside, South Shields, said:
“I rang my GP at Cleadon Park and they told me the system had changed and they gave me a number to ring.
“When I called, they asked me if I couldn’t not use a taxi instead. I thought he meant a taxi ambulance, which I have used in the past, but he meant for me to pay for a taxi.
“I rang back later and this time the woman asked if I could not get a bus to Sunderland.
“I just told her I was blind and my legs aren’t too good.”
Mr Tully, who gets about with the support of his guide dog Zeke, called the service last Friday and is still waiting to hear from health bosses if he meets the criteria needed for an ambulance.
He added: “I think it’s absolutely disgraceful, I really do.
“How are pensioners supposed to be able to pay for taxis?”
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck expressed her concerns over the rule change and is to seek a meeting with the region’s Commissioning Group.
A spokesman on behalf of the Clinical Commissioning Groups in the North East said he could not comment on an individual case.
He confirmed that regulations did not exempt a person with any particular condition or illness from having their transport eligibility reviewed.
“From October 20, all new Patient Transport Service bookings are subject to a short eligibility assessment, in accordance with national policy.
“This will take the form of a small number of questions being asked at the time of booking.
“The purpose of eligibility criteria is to ensure that those patients, with a medical requirement, can access transport to hospital. Patients with a medical requirement to be transported by ambulance will continue to receive transport.
> You might have thought that any patient trying to get to hospital for pre-arranged treatment could be considered to have a medical requirement ?
“Patients who are not eligible, are given information on alternatives available to them. Patients will not have to pay for an ambulance where there is a medical need for transport.”
If patients have any concerns or queries, they can contact the North of Tyne Patient Advice and Liaison Service via Freephone 0800 0320202, by text to 01670 511098 or by e-mailing email@example.com.
Source – Shields Gazette, 25 Oct 2014