OAPs’ ‘lifeline’ buses axed as Sunderland Royal Hospital negotiations fail

Coun. Phil Tye reading the cancelling notice for the shuttle bus to Sunderland Royal Hospital, in the car park of the former Homebase store, at Silksworth Lane, Sunderland, .
Coun. Phil Tye reading the cancelling notice for the shuttle bus to Sunderland Royal Hospital, in the car park of the former Homebase store, at Silksworth Lane, Sunderland, .
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PENSIONERS say they have been left in the lurch after their lifeline bus service to the hospital was axed.

A shuttle bus ran from the Homebase car park in Silksworth but was pulled after health bosses were unable to negotiate an extension.

The Trust used to operate two free park and ride services – the one from Silksworth to the Chester Wing, which is the main outpatient department at Sunderland Royal Hospital – and one from the Stadium of Light, which is still running.

Freda Shallaw, who lives in Elstob, said the bus was essential.

The 71-year-old said: “I have regular appointments with my consultant as I have rheumatoid arthritis and I have been going to physiotherapy.

“I do fall down and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been there. The bus was really handy, and I would be prepared to pay for it. The 99 bus is only once an hour and it stops at The Royalty, so I have to get another bus up Chester Road. There is no way I could walk up that hill.”

Brenda Hayes, of Silksworth, used the bus for her frequent hospital appointments.

The 68-year-old pensioner said: “I think the service is a necessity. It is well used, especially near the usual appointment times like 10am. I can’t understand it. I know of a lot of people in my age group that use it. My husband uses it and my daughter also uses it. It saves people trying to park over there.”

Silksworth councillor Phil Tye is now taking up the fight on behalf of the pensioners.

He said. “It is ridiculous to have done this in the middle of them building the new car park at the hospital, when there are less spaces available anyway due to the construction work.

“It’s also a smack in the face of residents who live around the hospital as people are having to park in that area. They have shown no consideration, it is unacceptable, when they simply haven’t got enough spaces at the hospital until the car park is operational.”

A spokesman for the hospital trust told the Echo: “The park and ride service from Homebase was not cancelled at short notice.

“Staff were told of this in mid-September, and that it was due to Homebase ceasing trading at the end of that month.

“The changes were also advertised over three nights in the Echo and a notice sent to all GP practices in the region.

“We appreciate how valued the service has been to patients, visitors and staff but, despite our best efforts, we were unable to negotiate any extension from the Homebase site.

“Bus times from the Stadium of Light and Gala Bingo, Pallion, have been extended from earlier in the morning until later in the evening. We apologise for any inconvenience to users.”