Vulnerable people risk being left isolated due to transport cuts that will see three vital bus routes to a Merseyside hospital axed.

Stagecoach Bus Operators have come under fire for proposed changes to their Wirral network, which will see a reduction in services to Arrowe Park Hospital.

The route revisions – set to take effect from September – mean the 22, 41A and 41B will no longer serve the hospital or Prenton Dell in Birkenhead.

Residents in these communities have already complained of battling transport “curfews” and feeling “trapped and cut off” because of depleted public transport links.

Cllr Tony Norbury, who represents Prenton and Birkenhead, said he was “appalled” to see his area dealt another blow.

He said: “As an elected Labour councillor in Prenton I am appalled that the residents of Prenton are being left isolated and let down once again by commercial bus operators withdrawing vital transport services.”

Stagecoach say they are making the changes to ensure the local bus network is “fit for purpose and commercially sustainable.”

The proposals follow a two week public consultation which asked residents for feedback on the revised routes.

The bus company admit a major theme from the feedback was the importance of the Arrowe Park Hospital routes, but said it was not possible ” to meet every demand from every passenger.”

Cllr Norbury said the bus cuts were part of a wider problem of a failing public transport system.

He said: “This proves the Tory privatisation of our transport services is not working. Putting profit before people’s needs deprives our people of vital transport links

“We need an integrated transport offer that is operated for passengers not profits, affordable and accessible to all.

“The people of Birkenhead need access to fresh food, health services and education. Withdrawing bus services because there is not profit to be made creates social isolation for many.”

What are the changes?

Stagecoach say their changes have allowed them to offer:

  • Improved coordination and frequency of buses between Chester – Chester Zoo – Cheshire Oaks – Ellesmere Port and Liverpool (1, 2, X1)
  • New Sunday buses for Overpool (X1)
  • Much improved service for Sandbrook estate (38)
  • More buses for Hope Farm estate (2)
  • Faster journey times from West Kirby to Heswall and beyond (22)

However, it comes with a price, as offering faster journeys on the 22 has meant cutting it short so it no longer runs to Arrowe Park Hospital.

Journeys currently operating as either 41A or 41B will become standard 41/42 journeys, no longer serving Prenton Hall Road or Arrowe Park Hospital.

The bus company have argued the diversion routes are not used often, and that by standardising the service by keeping the route consistent, they can significantly improve the punctuality of the service.

They also say they will continue to run tthe 471/472 service, enabling anyone who needs to reach the hospital to do so “quickly and conveniently”.

A blow to the community

The changes are likely to come as a blow to residents across Wirral who have already lamented the difficulty in getting to Arrowe Park via public transport.

There are no train stations in the area and a number of buses that run to the hospital have been axed in the last year.

Recent proposals to close five Wirral walk-in centres and replace them with a 24 hour Urgent Treatment centre in Arrowe Park were met with outrage – forcing health bosses to massively scale back the plans.

More than 30,000 people signed a petition against the closures, citing inadequate transport links to Arrowe Park as a major concern.

The UTC will extend its opening hours from 12 to 24 next year. but councillors have questioned how residents will benefit from this if they can’t access the service.

Commenting on the Stagecoach changes, Lib Dem Councillor Phil Gilchrist said: “There are clearly some gaps in services. There are gains and losses. The issue of getting to Walk In Centres and hospitals has not gone away.”

A Stagecoach spokesperson said: “We would like to thank everyone who contributed to our recent consultation. The consultation process provides the opportunity for our team to gather important input from the public on the key routes and services we offer, and this feedback will help to shape our service model going forward.

“The consultation highlighted how important it was for people to continue to be able to easily reach Arrowe Park Hospital. As such, Stagecoach will continue to run the 471/472 service, enabling anyone who needs to reach the hospital to do so quickly and conveniently – with frequent connections to the hospital available at Heswall Bus Station and Birkenhead Bus Station. Service 22 will continue to provide vital links between Chester, Neston, Heswall and West Kirby.

“As with any change to services, it is not always possible to meet every demand from every potential passenger but we are hopeful that the changes will ensure the most positive result for our passengers as a whole.”