H1: the hidden hospital bus

While I was giving GoSutton a try between the Royal Marsden and St Helier Hospitals in Sutton on Tuesday my friend James tweeted suggesting I also give the H1 inter-hospital bus route a ride. That was a new one on me, so I couldn’t resist giving it a go.

The H1 is sponsored by the Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust and was exclusively for the use of hospital staff shuttling between the Trust’s sites in Epsom, Sutton and St Helier. It’s operated by RATP owned Quality Line (part of Epsom Coaches) and the good news is from Monday 4th March the service was opened up for any member of the public to use at a £1.50 flat fare.

That’s a great new service for people living in Epsom needing to get over to Sutton or St Helier Hospitals for an appointment, or vice versa for Sutton residents having to pop down to Epsom and not just for the hospital either, as the H1 stops close to the town centre in East Street. What a brilliant idea. It’s not a bad timetable with three buses needing five drivers shuttling up and down for around thirteen hours between around 6.30am and 7.30pm on Mondays to Fridays. However you need your wits about you to remember the times, as buses run at an awkward frequency of every 35 minutes during the morning widening to every forty minutes during part of the afternoon.

TfL gave their blessing to the public using buses on the H1 as they rule the roost on such matters once you cross the boundary from Surrey. But as you can only get on and off the bus at Sutton and St Helier Hospitals within the London Borough it doesn’t interfere with anything TfL control.

It might be handy though if TfL entered the timetable into its journey planner database so people living near St Helier Hospital needing to get to Sutton Hospital could easily find out about the H1. I suspect there’s a bit of the “not invented here” syndrome as you’ll be lucky to find out about the hidden H1.

TfL’s Journey Planner unhelpfully completely ignores the H1 which would whisk you from St Helier to Sutton Hospital in a non-stop 15 minutes at, say, 1005 and instead recommends cathing its own circuitous S1 bus route taking almost double the journey time at 28 minutes. The much admired CityMapper guys also ignore the H1 in their app results too.

I couldn’t find any timetables for the H1 at the TfL bus stops on either side of the road outside St Helier Hospital nor the H1 number appearing on the flags but undaunted I wandered into the hospital itself where a helpful receptionist gave me directions to walk along a corridor, turn left and there it will be, just inside the hospital grounds.

And sure enough I found what looked like a bus stop still proclaiming a “staff” inter site shuttle, complete with two handy benches to sit and wait and even a timetable on the wall. Great stuff. And this being a hospital the statutory ‘caution wet floor’ warning sign was properly in place too, even though it was obviously dry.

The rather battered looking H1 bus soon arrived from its previous journey and even though I wasn’t wearing a stethoscope round my neck nor a lanyard with an NHS ID, the driver waved me on ignoring the contactless enabled Ticketer ticket machine at his side and kindly gave me a free ride.

A couple of NHS staff were also on board and they continued on towards Epsom Hospital as I alighted at Sutton Hospital impressed with my speedy fifteen minute non-stop journey. I love these hidden gem bus routes but it’s always a shame they’re not better promoted.

This got me thinking about Journey Planners and GoSutton. While I was out and about on Tuesday I used TfL’s Journey Planner to find out how to get from St Helier Hospital to Sutton Station. Interestingly it’s first recommendation at the time I asked was to take a 157 to Catshalton Station and then catch a Southern train over to Sutton at a cost of £3.60 and a journey time of 28 minutes. Er, that’s odd as the super new GoSutton minibus could have taken me there in little more than 10 minutes for a cheaper £3.50.

We’re always being told public transport information is available online and journey planners have made the need for printed maps and timetables redundant yet here’s an example where it falls down. App based DRT schemes and Journey Planners are not happy bedfellows.

Roger French

7 thoughts on “H1: the hidden hospital bus

  1. I don’t know why inter-hospital services such as this are not more widely promoted. Manchester Foundation NHS Trust have a service from Trafford General Hospital to Manchester Hospitals in central Manchester.

    It’s a free bus run by Bullocks and runs non-stop between the 2 hospitals, taking 30 minutes. No service buses directly link the 2 sites. It its listed on the Trust’s website on the ‘how to get here’ page. It is not listed under buses, but rather under Park & Ride for some reason. It runs ever 30 minutes on weekdays.

    There are 2 routes but I am not sure what the difference is.

    https://mft.nhs.uk/saint-marys/patients-visitors/visitors/getting-here/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You might not know either about the H59 Cardiff hospital bus. This runs every 20 minutes from a P&R site and is intended to cut parking congestion in and around the hospital. Originally £2 return for visitors and £1 for staff, it is now free. Best of all it will be running an enhanced service from next week! I always use it, it’s great! http://www.cardiffandvaleuhb.wales.nhs.uk/news/51076?fbclid=IwAR2D0HBTStOJzCNFomENfbzMb3F624IcCx5OtQn7LkvsNt1iavVusxvIhSg

    Liked by 1 person

  3. PS About Cardiff H59: it is included on the Cardiff Bus website though technically I think it’s a contracted-in service. The “click and check” timetable has been updated for next week but not the pdf one nor the “News” page!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Same goes for the H1 here in Sheffield linking the Northern General and Hallamshire hospitals, every 45 mins in the peaks but every 30 mins off peak, it’s run by SCT, with 2 Enviro 300’s…. Be warned, it’s normally busy all day

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There have been a few of these hospital staff buses made public over the years. A minibus company called Gatwick Links ran one to the East Surrey Hospital at one time. It fooled me when I went to photograph it by zooming past the bus station and disappearing off into the bowels of the hospital complex to terminate.

    Krest Minibuses of Leyton ran a service between Barnet and Edgware Hospitals. At the Barnet end at least it started from within the hospital car park and tickets had to be purchased before boarding from a re-purposed parking ticket machine.

    Chalfont Line of West Drayton ran a service between Hammersmith Hospital (actually in East Acton), Hammersmith, Charing Cross Hospital (actually in Fulham), and North Fulham.

    None of these routes lasted very long as public services, from what I recall.

    One that did last a long time was that between Herrison Mental Hospital at Charminster and Dorchester. Although it wasn’t licensed and the buses weren’t psvs, it nonetheless carried residents of Charminster and charged fares. Apparently the hospital authorities didn’t think that the provisions of the 1930 Act applied to them. It wasn’t until Deregulation that things were regularised, when an O licence was obtained and the service registered.

    Liked by 1 person

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