Authorities not taking ‘lifeline’ 84 bus route cut seriously

A “lifeline” bus route serving High Barnet which was cut in 2022 cannot be reinstated if council boundaries “get in the way”, an MP has warned.

By Will Durrant, Local Democracy Reporter

An 84 bus in St Albans
An 84 bus in St Albans. Photo: Will Durrant/LDRS

Theresa Villiers, who represents Chipping Barnet, has called on Hertfordshire County Council and Transport for London (TfL) to set their differences aside and reinstate the 84 bus route which used to run between Potters Bar and Barnet.

The route, which was run by Metroline between St Albans and north London, was withdrawn in April last year when its operator faced dwindling passenger numbers and “other costs”.

Sullivan Buses took over a section of the 84 route between St Albans and Potters Bar when Hertfordshire County Council stepped in, but a link to High Barnet – just three miles further south – was withdrawn.

Ms Villiers said: “I am worried that neither Hertfordshire County Council nor TfL are taking this issue seriously enough because the service operates across transport authority boundaries.

“These administrative barriers should not be allowed to get in the way of providing good public transport.

“The Mayor of London should step up and fund the return of the Potters Bar to New Barnet section of the 84 service.”

The Conservative MP added: “We need the bus route back the way it was.

“This bus has operated for many decades.

“The connection it provided between Potters Bar and High Barnet was a real lifeline for many residents, particularly people living in the Hadley Highstone area.”

Councillor Phil Bibby (Con, St Nicholas), who is responsible for transport in Hertfordshire, said: “We have supported all we can on the route.”

He added: “The 84 was a commercial route, surrendered by Metroline as they said it was not profitable, and Hertfordshire County Council had nothing to do with this decision, nor did it have any influence over the operator.

“However, as soon as we were informed, we negotiated with another operator – Sullivans, and managed to secure services covering the Hertfordshire end of the route, although we are now paying in excess of £60,000 per annum of taxpayers money to make this sustainable.

“We did ask TfL to contribute for their part of the old route, but they declined.”

London’s transport authority has insisted it is not “financially viable” to fund the route.

A TfL spokesperson said: “Given our current financial situation, which because of the pandemic has meant a reliance on government operational funding, we are unfortunately not in a position to take on costs covered by the previous operator.

“We considered numerous options to replace this part of the route and unfortunately none of these are financially viable.

“We will continue to keep travel patterns and demand under review and the flexible nature of the bus network means it can make frequency adaptations at relatively short notice to reflect changing demand where required.”

According to TfL figures, the transport authority must find savings of £740million in the 2023/24 financial year.

The spokesperson said figures “consistently” showed fewer than nine passengers crossed the Greater London boundary on the 84 on a typical day.

Cllr Barry Rawlings (Lab, Friern Barnet), leader of Barnet Council, said there is little hope TfL would “give money to Herts”.

He said: “This is not a war of words. Discussions have taken place but we are all looking to save money.

“Nothing will happen in this financial year.”

Sallie Rose, a former 84 passenger who lives in Potters Bar, said riders have no plans to shelve their campaign to reinstate the link.

She said: “The most important thing is that patients cannot get to Barnet Hospital from Hertfordshire, and patients in north London may find it difficult to get to Potters Bar for mental health care or treatment at the Moorfields Eye Hospital unit.

“There is all this ‘passing the buck’ going on, but the bottom line is that we have lost a vital connection.”

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