A BUS company has defended a decision to change a service which provides South Tyneside commuters with a direct route to visit friends and loved ones at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Go North East’s Prince Bishops service is to be extended to South Shields to provide a bus every 10 minutes to Sunderland City Centre and Durham.
This will create new links to the growing employment centres of Rainton Gate and Doxford International, and replaces the existing Laser service, which runs between South Shields and Sunderland.
However, it also means commuters from South Shields will no longer have a direct route to the Royal via the company’s current Laser bus service.
That is regarded as significant for borough residents as a number of hospital services have been transferred from their district hospital to Wearside in recent years – including treatment for children needing long-term support.
One concerned South Tyneside commuter, who did not want to be named, said: “This change means those people who have to travel from South Shields will no longer have a direct link to the hospital. When you read the bumf from Go North East, their rationale for making the changes is to improve and simplify the services in the Sunderland area – but clearly at the expense of the people of South Tyneside.
“This an important issue because a significant amount of hospital services have been transferred from South Tyneside District Hospital to the Sunderland Royal.
“It could now be argued that those people who rely on public transport will be better off going to the RVI, with its more direct transport links via the Metro.”
Today, a spokesman for Go North East said research showed that only 16 people a day made the direct journey from South Shields to the Sunderland hospital.
The company say the change will actually result in 10 minute services from South Shields to Sunderland – from where there are regular buses to the city’s hospital.
Stephen King, marketing and sales manager at Go North East, said: “With most buses in South Tyneside not changing and new links to Durham, Rainton Gate and stops near to Doxford International from the town, we hope that customers will find our new Prince Bishops service from South Shields very useful.”
The change comes into force on January 26.