FURIOUS health workers say changes to public transport could send the cost of their daily commute to work soaring.
Wigan Buses Limited have announced wholesale re-organisation - which came into effect at the weekend - of the two former dedicated bus routes serving Wrightington Hospital, blaming falling passenger numbers for the decision.
This is going to be an accident just waiting to happen, a total nightmareHospital patient
The No 638 and No 639 services, which ran in opposite directions, offered a half hourly hospital service from Wigan via Standish and Appley Bridge.
Now a single hourly extended and re-timed No 635 (Wigan/Shevington Vale) service excluding Standish will replace the two buses.
But angry health workers claim the move could price some out of jobs because of increased transport costs.
While those patients in Standish who want to access the hospital will need to change buses in Shevington to connect with the Wrightington service and then have to cross a “very busy and very fast” road, because the bus will no longer turn into the hospital site, instead depositing people in a lay-by on Hall Lane.
Sandra Ashurst, a domestic at the hospital for more than a decade, is now fearful about how she will get to work.
She is now calling for the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Foundation NHS Trust to introduce its own Wigan, Standish to Wrightington Hospital bus for NHS workers, just as it has for Wigan Infirmary staff from the town centre.
Mrs Ashurst, of Sheldon Avenue, Standish, is now facing a long walk from Crow Orchard filling station, the nearest available point to the hospital from the No 113 bus service she is now intending to catch.
She said: “I have been catching this bus to work for approaching 11 years because I don’t drive and my husband is at work himself when my shifts start.
“The nearest bus drops me at the petrol station which is going to be alright on decent days in the summer but not when the weather turns bad in the depths of winter.
“It was only by chance that I heard about this before they stopped, they seem to have sneaked this through.
“They say that these buses are not making enough money but I know the council subsidise them and there are a lot of elderly people and patients who depend on them.”
A middle manager at the hospital, who asked not to be named, said: “The Trust has new car parking restrictions planned to come into force very soon at Wrightington and staff have no option of getting to work on public transport. There is a lot of concern about these bus changes.”
Another patient attending for weekly physio rehabilitation treatment at Wrightington Hospital said: “From now on and I am going to end up being dumped on the other side of Hall Lane and then have to beat the speeding on coming cars on my crutches.
“This is going to be an accident just waiting to happen, a total nightmare.”
However, a spokesman for Transport for Greater Manchester insisted that the changes will still maintain links with the hospital.
A spokesman said: “Links from Wigan to Wrightington Hospital will be maintained by the extension to journeys on the No 635 service. which will run from Wigan beyond Shevington Vale to the hospital once an hour Monday to Saturday daytime and on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
“Circular service 639 is being withdrawn and the circular service 638 will operate between Wigan and Standish via Worthington Park and Bradley Mills.
“The section of route between Standish and Old Engine will be covered by revised services 640/641 and Worsley hall will be served by new circular services 640/41 and revised service 644.”
Associate director of estates and facilities at WWL NHS Foundation Trust David Evans said that it was the first time it had heard of the changes to public transport. But unfortunately it had “no influence whatsoever” with the bus service providers.
He said: “We recognise that this is a potential problem for some staff and we will explore other opportunities with other providers to see if an ad hoc service can be delivered.”