Published: 00:01, 17 June 2018
Compact minibuses on Ashford’s Little & Often service have been replaced - less than 18 months after Stagecoach spent £2.8 million on them.
The bus operator has introduced larger buses with almost 60% more seating capacity after 45% of customers said they were not satisfied with the space and comfort of the seats.
In February last year, a launch party at the Designer Outlet celebrated the introduction of the silver Mercedes Sprinter minibuses, which featured faux leather seats and room for 17 passengers.
But new buses called Optare Solos have now been brought in with seating capacity for 27 passengers.
They feature wheelchair and tip-up seats allowing space for pushchairs and buggies - something the previous Mercedes vehicles were criticised for lacking.
Under the revised scheme, route B has seen a 32% increase in seating capacity per hour, with route C benefitting from a 59% increase in seating capacity.
Stagecoach says the frequency of buses on both routes is remaining high, with route C unchanged and route B changing from every 10 minutes to every 12 minutes.
Routes B and C will continue to operate on the existing routes.
Stagecoach has also added route A to the Little & Often timetable, operating every 10 minutes.
It has been divided into two dedicated services - route A for Singleton and route D for Stanhope.
Route E is no longer operating, but route G has been extended to serve South Willesborough and the Orbital Park in Sevington.
Stagecoach spokesman Matt Maytum said: “All the Mercedes minibuses have been allocated to various locations across the UK.
“There may be a few still parked up at the depot, but they will be leaving very soon.”