Vulnerable woman, 79, spent night in Royston public toilets after bus 'failed to turn up'

People waiting at a bus stop.
Credit: PA
Cuts to bus services across East Anglia have been a major issue for passengers in recent months. Credit: PA

A vulnerable 79-year-old woman spent the night in a public toilet after her bus failed to show up, a councillor has said.

Labour councillor Neil Shailer, from Cambridgeshire County Council, said he had been told by a fellow councillor that the woman had been waiting for a bus to travel from Royston to Harston.

Speaking at a meeting of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s transport and infrastructure committee, Mr Shailer said he wanted to highlight that the plans were also about “actual people” and "actual lives".

He said: “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 meeting on Wednesday was held to discuss the authority's draft bus strategy to improve public transport across the area.

The incident comes against the backdrop of widespread bus cuts across East Anglia.

In September Stagecoach East - which was not involved in the incident which left the woman stranded - was criticised after it withdrew 18 routes in the county due to "significant falls in passenger numbers" after the Covid-19 pandemic.

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.”

Multiple councillors raised the need for the bus network to be integrated with other services in the area.

Concerns were also raised about making buses "more convenient" to help encourage people to take their cars off the road and make the switch.

A final version of the draft strategy is expected to be presented to the Combined Authority Board later this month.

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