As the Times Series campaigns for Transport for London to create a direct bus route to Finchley Memorial Hospital, reporter Natalie O’Neill finds out just how long – and painful – a trip to the site really is.
Patients young and old had told me the current walk from the nearest bus stop to the hospital in Granville Road was tiresome and difficult, to say the least.
But it was only when I accompanied one of the hospital’s regular patients, Cecilia Boosey, that I realised how gruelling it was.
The East Finchley resident had a hip replacement on December 2 and has visited the hospital to see a consultant and physiotherapist around 20 times since.
She said: “I usually get a £7 taxi to the hospital because the walk from the bus stop would tire me out before my appointment. And then if it’s a sunny day, and I don’t have to worry about slipping in a puddle. I get the bus back, but I hate the walk.”
With the 46-year-old ready to go with her two crutches, we left the hospital and began the journey to the nearest bus stop in High Road.
But it did not take long before Miss Boosey’s hip began to hurt. “It’s already very uncomfortable and I can feel my hip beginning to swell," she said.
“If I was on my own I would also feel very vulnerable walking so slowly on two crutches. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way – there are many people who do not like this walk and it’s not just elderly people.
“I don’t understand why a bus cannot go directly to the front of the hospital. It was designed for this to happen. The road is big enough, and there are benches where patients could wait comfortably.”
Sadly, this is not an option – yet. We carry on our journey over uneven footpaths, and across two roads with no green man signals.
It takes us a staggering 15 minutes to walk to the bus stop, by which time Miss Boosey is in pain and tired.
Transport for London has so far said it is “not able to support” a request to re-route a bus to the hospital, claiming diverting a bus would cost £120,000 each year to cover the cost of an additional vehicle and driver in rush hours.
Miss Boosey said: “I think it’s ridiculous they’re using money as an excuse. Patients have to pay a lot of money to get taxis or face a horrible walk to and from the bus stop. It’s not right and something needs to be done.
“I personally think they should re-route the 263 and have a single-decker bus that goes via the hospital.”
But TfL has said the additional time it would take to drive via the hospital “cannot be absorbed” into the tight bus schedule, which demands that 82 per cent of all departures are on time.
A spokesman said: “We set minimum standards for reliability on each route, which the operating company must achieve or exceed.
“An additional three to five minutes running time for every bus in each direction during peak times cannot be absorbed into this eight-bus schedule without an unacceptable effect on reliability or a reduction in the advertised frequency.”
The campaign continues.