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Bluewater bus cuts: last chance to have your say

A consultation on planned cuts to two bus services running to Bluewater shopping centre will end today.

Transport for London (TfL) plans to curb the 428 route running from Crayford to the shopping centre and stop the 492 running to Bluewater from Dartford, from January.

The 428 and 492 bus services which currently run to Bluewater will instead terminate at Dartford
The 428 and 492 bus services which currently run to Bluewater will instead terminate at Dartford

The 428 would continue to run to and from Erith and Crayford, with double deckers instead of single deck buses, but there would no longer be three school-day-only peak hour journeys.

Customers who wish to travel to/from Dartford, Darent Valley Hospital and Bluewater could interchange at Crayford to/from route 96 - using the "hopper fare".

This allows customers to interchange between buses, or make multiple bus journeys, within an hour at no extra cost.

TfL's subsidy from the government is coming to an end which means it is looking to make cuts to existing services and has identified the North Kent area for savings.

The bus provider says it has no "statutory responsibility" to operate to and from destinations in Kent, but the 96 route would provide a service from both towns to the centre and the changes would "better match bus capacity to customer demand".

Angry councillors met at Dartford's civic centre last week to air their frustration at the transport body's proposal to scrap parts of the routes.

Council leader Jeremy Kite told the cabinet it was "poor" from TfL, saying: “I suggest we put in a robust response to say we are not happy about this and feel really strongly about it."

A 'Save our 428 and 492 bus services' petition has been posted online by the Dartford Labour group gathering more than 1,300 signatures to date.

Councillors raised several of the issues noted on the petition page including the impact on school children and vulnerable older people who rely on the services.

This included those pupils attending the new secondary school Stone Lodge, located on Cotton Lane, which opened its doors for the first time last week.

"Residents have expressed concerns it would impact them financially and they would not be able to get where they want to go" - Cllr Rosanna Currans

Fearing the impact on prospective pupils, Cllr Kite said: "This will change students' fare box immeasurably and it seems to me there is a legitimate concern to the communities of Stone."

Several councillors also pointed out around 25% of current hospital staff at Darent Valley come from neighbouring areas such as Bexley and Erith.

Councillor Kelly Grehan, who represents the Stone House ward, said travelling staff could also be put at risk, particularly those changing at an early time in the morning or late at night following a shift.

"There is a financial consideration to all this too with additional trips to be made", added councillor for the Brent ward, Rosanna Currans.

"Residents have expressed concerns that it would impact them financially and they would not be able to get where they want to go."

The local council is calling for additional stopping points in Watling Street, between Dartford and Bluewater, for the 428 service and an increase in the frequency of the 96 service from Woolwich to Bluewater.

Kent County Council, the county's highways authority, and Dartford council continue to engage in discussions over providing a joint objection letter to the London transport body.

Dartford residents can have their say on the proposal by visiting tfl.gov.uk/dartford-crayford or emailing consultations@tfl.gov.uk by the end of today.

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