Woman, 79, ‘spent night in public toilet when bus did not turn up’
A vulnerable 79-year-old woman spent the night in a public toilet after her bus failed to show up, a councillor has said.
Cllr Neil Shailer said he had been told about the incident from another councillor, who said the woman had been waiting for a bus to travel from Royston to Harston.
He shared the story at a meeting of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s transport and infrastructure committee today (Wednesday, November 16).
The meeting was discussing the authority’s draft bus strategy to improve public transport across the area.
Cllr Shailer (Lab, Romsey) said he wanted to highlight that the plans were also about “actual people”.
The county councillor said: “This is an anecdote that we had last night from one of the county councillors.
“I had a call from one of my parish councillors today, a 79-year-old vulnerable lady spent between 5pm and 7.30pm waiting for a bus at Royston to take her back to Harston.
“The bus never turned up, she called the police asking for help, but they said there was nothing they could do. She ended up spending the night in a public toilet.
“These are about actual people, actual lives, even though we are looking at this from more of an overall strategy, I think we should not lose sight of the fact that the beneficiaries of people on buses are not only those people on the buses, but its provision of infrastructure and we want to create an environment where our people can thrive.
“In order to get them to work we need something ambitious, we need a joined up system.”
The draft vision for the future bus strategy says it wants to create a “comprehensive network of bus services across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough that people find convenient, easy to use, reliable and good value for money, that is inclusive and offers a viable alternative to the car”.
A report presented to the meeting said: “The [Combined Authority] wants to create a more connected region, which will encourage active and sustainable travel, improve health and wellbeing, and reduce private vehicle journeys.
“The five key goals of the bus strategy are: attracts car users; supports sustainable growth; protects and enhances the environment; supports community health and wellbeing; opens up opportunity for all.”
Cllr Sam Wakeford, from Huntingdonshire District Council, said he was supportive of progressing the bus strategy saying it was “really important to residents”.
However, he said he thought there would be “value in greater detail” in terms of delivering on the ambitions, as well as defining what some of the key points of the vision actually mean, raising in particular the use of “comprehensive” and “convenient”.
Cllr Wakeford (Lab, Huntingdon North) said that for him a comprehensive service would include all of the services that had been running before the Stagecoach cuts announcement, recognising the interim services arranged by the Combined Authority.
He also said that a convenient network would not just be existing routes, but routes that took people to where they needed to go.
Cllr Marco Cereste (Con, Hampton Vale), from Peterborough City Council, said he agreed with Cllr Wakeford.
Cllr Cereste said he was not a bus user as he did not find them to be convenient, compared to trains and his car.
He added: “One of the objectives should be to get people like me onto buses because the benefit is not just that there are then more buses available, which will make it better for everybody, but also helping the climate and the planet, getting my big car off the road.”
Cllr Ian Bovingdon (Con, Soham South) from East Cambridgeshire District Council, said the draft bus strategy needed more detail, and added that he could not currently support progressing the plan while it referenced congestion charging.
Tim Bellamy, the interim head of transport at the Combined Authority asked if Cllr Bovingdon could highlight where this reference was made in the strategy, so that he could tighten up the wording. He said the authority was “not in a position to comment” on the Greater Cambridge Partnership proposals for a potential road charge in Cambridge.
Multiple councillors raised the need for the bus network to be integrated with other services in the area.
Support was also raised for the Combined Authority pursuing franchising; Cllr Cereste said franchising would give the authority the opportunity to “look at things a bit differently”.
Cllr Lewis Herbert (Lab, Coleridge), from Cambridge City Council, said buses were a “lifeline” for many communities, and therefore the authority’s strategy for the future of the bus network was important.
Mr Bellamy said the committee’s feedback would be taken on board to adapt the draft strategy. A final version of the draft strategy is expected to be presented to the Combined Authority board later this month where they will be asked to approve a six week consultation on the plans.