St John’s Hospital bus link to be axed

The number 24 bus provides a vital link to St John's Hospital. File picture: Lisa Ferguson

The number 24 bus provides a vital link to St John's Hospital. File picture: Lisa Ferguson

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A VITAL hospital bus link will be axed next month after a cash-strapped council pulled its funding.

The number 24 E&M Horsburgh-run service connects passengers between Juniper Green and St John’s Hospital in Livingston – to which most patients from the west of Edinburgh are referred.

West Lothian Council has now withdrawn a £60,000 annual subsidy for the service, meaning it will be taken off the road from Sunday, April 10.

Community leaders in Juniper Green, Currie and Balerno say elderly patients and people without cars now face using an alternative service, which takes an hour longer to reach the hospital.

They also claimed they were not consulted because their communities fall under the jurisdiction of Edinburgh city council.

Richard Henderson, chairman of the Balerno Community Council, said: “People don’t generally know about cuts to the service. Those who do are predominantly elderly, don’t drive and are single and don’t have immediate access to anybody who might be able to drive them.

“We aren’t aware of any consultation and it appears West Lothian Council is taking this decision without considering the effects of cutting the service on neighbouring communities.

“I would hope that Edinburgh and West Lothian councils can together recognise the impact that this is likely to have on the community and what can be done to ensure there is a service available.

“Cutting this service makes going to hospital an even more stressful experience.”

Bill Henderson, SNP councillor for the Pentland Hills ward, added: “West Lothian Council has pulled the plug without any consultation [with west Edinburgh] and has left areas like Balerno and Currie struggling to get transport for elderly people and those without cars to get to St John’s for appointments or to visit.

“It would be better if there had been consultation and they had come with a service to the west of Edinburgh.”

A West Lothian Council spokesman insisted it was committed to maintaining a “sustainable and affordable” public transport network that meets the needs of most of its residents.

He added: “We will spend £8.2 million in 2016-17 to subsidise around 20 per cent of passenger transport services in West Lothian.

“However £1.5m of savings are needed due to funding constraints, which has led to changes to a number of bus services to make best use of resources.

“The 24 service is being withdrawn as it is currently duplicating services within West Lothian.

“West Lothian communities such as Kirknewton and Wilkieston are served by other bus services, while Balerno and Juniper Green are not part of West Lothian.

“Less than 24,000 journeys were made on this route over a year and the cost was over £60,000, meaning that each journey was subsidised by over £2.50 from West Lothian taxpayers.”

john.connell@edinburghnews.com