After months of “absolute horror stories”, passengers have won their fight to restore the Potters Bar to Barnet bus link.
At a meeting on Wednesday, August 23, Hertsmere Borough Council’s cabinet has approved £183,600 funding for a new 84B service.
Central Connect has won the contract for a route route across the Hertfordshire and Greater London boundary, with services launching on Monday, September 4.
The Labour and Liberal Democrat-led council’s funding will last for one year, but Hertfordshire County Council, as a transport authority, could stump up £60,000 top-up money, depending on how popular the route proves.
“Our message to Potters Bar residents has to be ‘use it or lose it’,” warned Labour councillor Nik Oakley, the borough’s cabinet member for infrastructure.
The Borehamwood Kenilworth councillor said the route must become “commercially viable” to survive soon after local authority cash runs out.
“We are providing the seed money to start this route up again,” she said.
Metroline walked away from the 84 Barnet to St Albans via Potters Bar route in April 2022.
A company spokesperson said Covid-19 had affected ridership while operating costs had increased “significantly”.
Hertfordshire County Council paid £60,000 to keep the 84 moving between Potters Bar and St Albans.
But this left a three-mile gap between Potters Bar, the town’s community hospital, and next-door Barnet – which has a tube station and acute care hospital.
More than 900 campaigners signed a letter calling on transport authorities to restore the route.
A Facebook group, now called “We saved the 84 Bus Route”, has more than 1,000 members.
“We started to hear lots of absolute horror stories about how residents were not coping without this bus service,” Cllr Oakley said.
“We had nurses getting Ubers in order to get to work at the hospital.
“We had schoolkids being late for school and in one instance there was a safeguarding issue.
“We had people having difficulties visiting friends and relatives in hospital.
“There’s even one family which had to move out.”
Cllr Oakley, who took on her role after the May 2023 elections, added borough and county staff had “worked so hard” on the timetables, contracts and the route.
She said: “I’m hoping after tonight we can shout it from the rooftops and say that we have done this, and that we have done it in record time.”
Scrutiny ‘crucial if we want a route run for residents, by residents’
The new 84B will connect Potters Bar station and town centre with Barnet Hospital, through Monken Hadley, Barnet High Street, High Barnet’s Northern Line station and Chipping Barnet.
There will be roughly one bus per hour during the daytime on weekdays and Saturdays, but no Sunday service.
Potters Bar Parkfield councillor Lynette Sullivan said: “I would like to start by saying how positive a direct route to Potters Bar Community Hospital, High Barnet and Barnet Hospital will be for our residents.
“I use public transport myself and I appreciate its value.”
Cllr Sullivan, who sits on the Conservative benches, called for a future consultation with residents to help shape the timetable, particularly if some margins prove “tight” for schoolchildren – between the bus time and the first school bell.
She asked: “Do we know if one service an hour will be enough, especially at peak hours?
“Will there be potential to tweak the service before conclusions are made about whether the route is financially sustainable after 12 months?
“Data collection and scrutiny will be crucial if we want a route run for residents and tailored by residents.”
Oliver Dowden, Conservative MP for Hertsmere, said: “I was very pleased to learn that the 84 bus route between Potters Bar and Barnet has been restored.”
He added: “I hope this announcement will bring comfort to a large number of Potters Bar residents who had raised concerns with me when the service was withdrawn, especially those who were reliant on the route to get to hospital appointments.”
Hertsmere Borough Council’s deputy leader, Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Richards, said: “I’m really proud to support this.”
Cllr Richards, who represents Bushey North, said there are environmental benefits to boosting bus services.
“Any measures we can put in place, even in a small way, can limit the number of journeys by car – perhaps in terms of parents dropping their kids off at school – are welcomed,” he said.
“I did join the protest outside Potters Bar Bus Garage.
“The feeling then was to make a point to say this is wrong, and a short period of time later, we are able to put something back.”
Cash for buses from developer levy
The 84B funding will come from a charge on developers, known as the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).
In July, there was £208,597.73 in the pot for Potters Bar projects, which Hertsmere’s cabinet has decided to draw down on.
At the August 23 meeting, borough leader Councillor Jeremy Newmark said: “We’ve had a good debate this evening.
“Absolutely not, because I can assure you no stone has been left unturned in doing this the proper way, from external legal advice to analyses of best value for public money.
“Every single component of that decision-making process has happened.
“It’s happened quickly to deliver for local schoolchildren ahead of September 4.”
The Labour council leader paid tribute to Potters Bar Oakmere councillor Cllr Sarah Hodgson-Jones.
He said the Conservative councillor is a “stalwart supporter and campaigner” for the 84 replacement.
He added Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet Theresa Villiers had been a “fantastic encouragement and help in engendering the multi-authority support that was needed to make this happen”.
Cllr Newmark added Cllr Oakley is “fast becoming known as the queen of bus provision in our county – a title that is well deserved”.