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Victory for bus campaigners as 666 route from Faversham to William Harvey Hospital in Ashford is saved

A direct bus route to Ashford's William Harvey Hospital will be restored, in a victory for patients and health campaigners.

Kent County Council's cabinet member for transport, Mike Whiting, said on Tuesday that he had decided to overturn cutbacks to the 666 service which saw most journeys finishing in Ashford town centre rather than the hospital.

The council's U-turn follows outcry from Faversham residents and councillors, who feared the changes would leave older patients and people with limited mobility struggling to attend hospital appointments or visit loved ones.

The 666 bus route goes from Faversham to Ashford.
The 666 bus route goes from Faversham to Ashford.

A direct route to hospital, taking an hour in total, will now be re-established in 45 days.

The changes were made after the 666, which is council-subsidised and operated by Stagecoach, was diverted to serve areas of Ashford which had been left with no bus coverage after a network review, increasing hospital journey times from Faversham by 24 minutes after a change of bus.

The council will now tender for a separate service to serve these areas, which include Eureka, Eurogate Business Parks and Repton Park areas of Ashford.

Cllr Whiting (Con) said: "The decision was initially made in reaction to Stagecoach's alterations to its service in Ashford which left some passengers without any service.

"The county council attempted to ensure no one would be left without a service, accepting that some users travelling from Faversham to the William Harvey Hospital would need to change buses.

"However, it is clear that this change has had a more detrimental effect than envisaged and I have made the decision to overturn the change.

"The Traffic Commissioner needs to be informed and it will take 45 days before the direct route can be re-established.

"For residents in the Eureka, Eurogate Business Parks and Repton Park areas of Ashford, the current service will be tendered as a separate supported service at the same time, so residents will not see a break in their buses.

"I would like to thank the residents that contacted me to voice their concerns and I am glad to be able to help them at a time when commercial service changes mean people lose access to their bus services."

Cllr Mike Whiting.
Cllr Mike Whiting.

Faversham councillor Antony Hook (Lib Dem) called the news "fantastic", saying: "We will have to watch carefully that there's no backtracking, but it's a credit to every single person who raised their voice to get this changed.

"This is a huge relief to me, but it's an even bigger relief to people in Faversham who need to get to hospital and don't have their own transport. It shows that speaking up can have an effect."

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