Villagers left waiting over an hour in cold for Arriva buses demand better service

Arriva's 101 service runs between Luton and Stevenage, and is the only service that runs through Lilley and Great Offley

Arriva Herts and Essex's 101 bus runs between Luton and Stevenage, and is the only service that goes through Lilley and Great Offley - Credit: Archant

Residents of a rural village in North Hertfordshire are pleading to their bus operator to reinstate a more reliable service, after facing unprecedented delays and cancellations.

Great Offley resident Corey Hogan described the service as "historically shaky". She, along with many other villagers, has aired how the "unprecedently unsatisfactory" Arriva timetable, and the cancellation of peak services, is putting immense pressure on those that follow.

Corey's daughter, a Hitchin Girls' student, has no choice but to use the 101 service to get to school each day. An annual academic bus pass, Corey explained, is £355.

She said that asking Arriva provide the buses they advertise is not "anything extraordinary", but she does sympathise with recent staffing issues.

"I expect Arriva to do everything they reasonably can to ensure that there is enough provision on those peak times to get children to and from school and people to and from work."

Her daughter has had buses cancelled last minute, and been refused passage due to the remaining services being at full capacity. At this time of year, her daughter is now often arriving home gone 5pm - an hour and a half after school finishes - in the pitch black.

"This simply is not acceptable.

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"As a parent of a 13-year-old girl, I am increasingly worried about her standing for extended periods of times in the cold and in the dark waiting for the bus. We know from shocking recent events in the news that our streets are not a safe place anymore. My fear is that Arriva will not stop and take note and improve this service until there is a tragedy."

During the height of the pandemic, Arriva put on a student-only bus service so their normal routes could comply with social distancing measures to keep communities safe.

This reliable service, Corey explained, was not reinstated for this academic year. The cut in services has had a knock-on effect on how the route now operates. 

"Our village children and elderly are the most vulnerable passengers and they are the ones being left waiting in worsening conditions," she said.

"Our children deserve a safe passage to and from school, and parents are paying through the nose for a service that is currently not there.

"What will it take for Arriva to take heed and ensure the advertised services are fulfilled?"

And Corey is not alone. Fellow villager Lynne Whiting said that her 84-year-old mother-in-law, who is partially blind, was "frozen to the core" after waiting for a bus in freezing temperatures.

Taking a bus to a morning appointment at Lister Hospital, which she ended up missing, she was left waiting with school children who also found themselves without a service to take them into Hitchin.

"Us villagers rely heavily on a good bus service, but of late it seems to not worry them to sail straight through down the dual carriageway," Lynne said.

"We have no post office or shop at this end of the village, so pensioners rely on the bus to get them to Hitchin for such purposes."

Leah Forsyth said that her 11-year-old daughter "gets very anxious" waiting for the bus to take her to school.

"Many a time, the 7.41am bus hasn't turned up, and she has to wait for the next.

"She could be stood waiting for 30 minutes. I dread to think what it will be like in the winter.

"She and many others were left standing for an hour and 20 minutes in temperatures of two degrees," she said, adding that her confidence in Arriva's current service has plummeted.

A spokesperson from the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), which represents the bus and coach sector, said on behalf of Arriva: “Tens of thousands of bus routes across the country are running on schedule each day and what we are seeing are localised issues with driver availability caused by a number of issues, including drivers having to self-isolate."

They added that there is not a shortage of people wanting to become bus drivers, rather that other external factors - including Brexit, the pandemic and a backlog at the DLVA and DVSA - is causing the current shortfall.

“We are confident that these will be short-term problems. The DVLA has confirmed that it will process new provisional license applications as a priority so new drivers can start their training as soon as possible and our members are reporting a much improved position.”