Cambridge University accused of ignoring disabled students over Hills Road bus route changes

Prof Geoff Ward says changes to the Universal bus route on Hills Road will discriminate against Homerton students

By Adam Care

Students and staff at Cambridge University’s biggest college have accused it of ignoring disabled students, after they were left with a half-mile journey to the nearest bus stop. The university-subsidised Uni4 bus currently stops at Homerton College on Hills Road, but following changes to its route it has been diverted to Brooklands Avenue, half a mile away. The change, which will come into effect in November, has been condemned by college principal Professor Geoff Ward.

He told the News: “We were not consulted, and I only found out about it by accident. “I wrote to the university to protest strongly against the decision, which I think is very unhelpful to our students.” The replacement ‘Universal’ bus, which is also available to the public, connects Madingley Road with Addenbrooke’s, via Cambridge Station. Currently it also provides students at Homerton with an easy route into town, for lectures at the Sidgwick Site. It is also used by students and staff at the university’s Faculty of Education, which is based at Homerton.

The replacement ‘Universal’ bus, which is also available to the public, connects Madingley Road with Addenbrooke’s, via Cambridge Station.

Currently it also provides students at Homerton with an easy route into town, for lectures at the Sidgwick Site. It is also used by students and staff at the university’s Faculty of Education, which is based at Homerton.

The Uni4 was replaced by the Universal service, which is operated by Whippet buses, in July. However, the changed route will not into effect until November. Prof Ward said the decision would discriminate against disabled students, and vowed to fight for a reversal. He said: “I am not at all happy. We are part of the university, we are one of the colleges furthest away from the centre and it is already harder for Homerton students to find their way to central lecture sites. “So to have this situation, which is already not in their favour, made worse, is really, really unhelpful. It’s going to be uncomfortable for anyone to walk half a mile in the rain, only to find the bus stop is a pole with no shelter, but it’s even worse for students with disabilities.”

A petition started by a postgraduate student calling on the change to be scrapped has now gained over 880 signatures. Will Hewstone, president of the college’s union of students, said the petition had the full support of the college’s students: “We’ve spent many years making Homerton into an accepting community, and it’s the disabled students and those who have relied on the service over the years who will suffer. Many have existing health conditions or aren’t comfortable cycling through Cambridge. I am really, really disappointed, I feel the university has let us down, and it comes across with such little respect. The community Homerton has built is united.”

Jessica Wing, disabled students’ officer at Cambridge University’s Students Union (CUSU), said students would have to spend money for taxis, or risk missing lectures. She said: “Many disabled students at Homerton and the Education Faculty make regular use of the bus service to access their education and social activities. “The route change will undoubtedly result in some students having to spend an inordinate amount of their own money on taxi services to continue to access their studies, or else be unable to attend lectures.

“The new contract was agreed without adequately thinking through the consequences, and CUSU urges the university to rethink its decision.” A university spokesman said the change was decided after “a long process of discussion at the relevant university committees.” He added: “The university has supplied information to those on Hills Road affected by the change. “The university has supplied information to those on Hills Road affected by the change. “This includes continuing to use the Universal bus service or using the other bus services which travel along Hills Road and have stops outside major locations like Homerton College.”