Published: 16:18, 03 December 2015
Buses into Maidstone and Aylesford will be cancelled today and Monday as drivers strike over timetable changes that could see them spend more than five hours behind the wheel with limited toilet breaks.
More than 200 Arriva drivers have walked out, forcing school children, commuters and Christmas shoppers to make alternative travel arrangements.
Services that start and finish in Medway will not run meaning the 101 between Chequers Bus Station at The Mall Chequers and Gillingham, via Maidstone East Station and Springfield, will be cancelled.
Initially Arriva said the 155, between Clare Park in Maidstone, via Aylesford and Eccles to Chatham Bus Station, would not run at all. However, this afternoon they said the 155 buses run by the Maidstone depot would run as normal.
Each strike will last from 5am until the same time the following morning.
Unite the Union said timetable changes, introduced in June and July, are unachievable and unsafe, as drivers will suffer with fatigue after working up to five-and-a-half hours with just four minutes’ “recovery time” and limited access to toilets.
Regional officer Dave Weeks said: “Strike action is not a step our members take lightly. They pride themselves on the service they provide to the travelling public, but it is a service which is being undermined by recent changes.
“We have continually raised major concerns about the changes, which are leading to drivers being behind the wheel for excessive periods without even the time for a ‘comfort’ break.”
Heath Williams, managing director of Arriva Southern Counties, said: “I wholeheartedly apologise to our customers for the considerable inconvenience they will encounter during this strike.
"We remain willing to meet staff representatives at any time to try to resolve matters and to prevent the second strike going ahead.
“Unfortunately timekeeping issues were identified on some revised timetables; the true impact of these did not come to light until schools returned in September.
“It takes 56 days from registration of the revised service before we can introduce the improvements, which in this case will come into effect from January 24.
“In the interim, we have offered to work with representatives to ease the current drivers’ duties and relieve some of the pressure they are under.”
The 56 days, Arriva said, is a condition of the Transport Act.
Anyone with tickets for the affected days is entitled to an equivalent extension, contact Arriva here for details. To find out whether your 155 bus is running, call Arriva on 0344 800 44 11 or check their Facebook page.
Every morning at 10am we play you an hour of tunes from the 90s. We call it, #WeLoveThe90s.
Play 'Say It' with Garry and Laura on kmfm Breakfast and you could win £1,000!
Wake up to kmfm Breakfast with Garry and Laura - it's Kent's alarm call.