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Residents’ anger as Stagecoach withdraws all bus services on Little Burton estate in Ashford

Furious residents say they have been left prisoners on their own estate after all bus services were axed without notice.

Stagecoach South East has stopped serving the sprawling Little Burton in Kennington, Ashford, as "passenger numbers have fallen away".

The move means four bus stops on George Williams Way now sit abandoned, with neighbours facing a 15-minute walk to the nearest pick-up point.

Jodie Bruce, 74, says she specifically moved to Little Burton 16 years ago because of its bus links.

But now she feels cut off from the rest of Ashford and says she can only get into the town centre once a week.

“We had been promised that our estate wouldn't be affected by the recent timetable changes,” explained Mrs Bruce.

“I am absolutely devastated, I just can’t believe we have been let down like this.

Resident Jodie Bruce says she feels isolated
Resident Jodie Bruce says she feels isolated

“I have thought about visiting Longacres Bybrook Barn [the nearby garden centre] but the thought of doing the 10 to 15-minute walk to the bus stop both ways, buying shopping, and having to carry it with me has put me off so I stay home.

“I feel terribly isolated. The loneliness is indescribable.

“The older generation are now housebound. It's our right to have some kind of transport.”

The 1 and 1X routes used to transport residents into the town centre and to Canterbury, but the nearest stops are now at the Penlee Point junction and near Stubbs restaurant on the A28.

Christine Reader, who lives near the Conningbrook Hotel close to the estate, used to catch the bus from Little Burton.

Christine Reader lives close to the Little Burton estate
Christine Reader lives close to the Little Burton estate

“Now I have to walk further and if you have heavy shopping it's not easy,” the 69-year-old said.

“They expect us to use the buses more but how can we when they let us down?

“Instead of using a double-decker bus, perhaps they could have saved money by putting on a smaller bus.”

While there were consultations earlier this year about services being withdrawn from Wye, Little Burton representative Cllr Katy Pauley (Ashford Independent) says there was “no public consultation about Little Burton cuts”.

“Before the timetables came out, it said that just Wye would go, no word of Little Burton whatsoever,” the Ashford Borough Council member said.

Buses no longer serve Little Burton, meaning the four stops on the estate now sit abandoned
Buses no longer serve Little Burton, meaning the four stops on the estate now sit abandoned

“My concern is for the residents because regular passengers used the services to go into town, or to the doctor's surgery and they now don't have that option.

“Walking to Penlee Point from the lower end of the Little Burton estate isn't so far, but for those who live at the top near Atkinson Walk it is a trek.

“Little Burton is such a small loop but it was so beneficial, especially for elderly residents who can't walk as far and not everyone has a car.

“One resident said without the bus he may as well get the car out and that's not what we encourage as a borough.

“A few years ago we fought to get a bus shelter on George Williams Way and now it is sat redundant.

“Hopefully, people will realise that even though this is a small estate, losing the buses has had a huge impact.”

“Perhaps they could have saved money by putting on a smaller bus...”

But despite the obvious need, Stagecoach says the reason the services were cut was because they were not commercially viable.

A spokesman said: "We operated a commercial bus service through Little Burton for many years, but after the pandemic, passenger numbers have fallen away and sadly there's no longer enough bus use in the area to support a regular service.

"It's a difficult decision for us to make because we know the impact it may have on individual people who used the bus, but without a funding stream to underwrite the cost of running the service, we cannot continue to provide it.

"By making this change we can help put our service offering on a sustainable footing and refocus our available resources on maintaining core bus links in the area.

The bus shelter on George Williams Way that residents fought for in 2019 is now sat empty
The bus shelter on George Williams Way that residents fought for in 2019 is now sat empty

"We remain absolutely committed to working with the county council to find solutions for communities where commercial bus services are unviable."

Services at risk of being lost sometimes get subsidised by Kent County Council (KCC), but the authority has not stepped in on this occasion.

A KCC spokesman said: “Following Stagecoach’s decision to make efficiencies in this area, KCC acted on its existing commitment to protect school services where possible.

“We have worked to replace key journeys at school times but are not able to intervene in every instance.”

A spokesperson from Kennington Community Council said: “Kennington Community Council discussed the withdrawal of the No 1 bus service through Little Burton Farm at its meeting on September 13.

“This change leaves the whole estate and more than half a mile of Canterbury Road without any bus service.

“Councillors said that they had been dismayed to find this out from social media comments by residents.

“Kent County Council's website announcing service alterations had referred only to the withdrawal of this route from Wye.

“Councillors were appalled that this underhand action had prevented residents making representations to the operator and to local authorities.

“Councillors questioned whether there was any point in Ashford Borough Council placing planning requirements on new developers, such as on the Conningbrook Park development, requiring them to provide regular bus services into the town centre if services to existing developments were to be withdrawn without warning.”

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