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Dozens of staff leave Stagecoach after bus depot in Cheriton, Folkestone, closes

Dozens of staff – including many drivers – have left a bus company after one of its Kent depots closed this weekend.

Stagecoach announced plans to shut the site in Kent Road in Cheriton, Folkestone, in June ahead of cutting services in the area.

Stagecoach shut its bus depot in Kent Road, Cheriton, Folkestone, this weekend. Picture: Google Street View
Stagecoach shut its bus depot in Kent Road, Cheriton, Folkestone, this weekend. Picture: Google Street View

While “the vast majority” of the 160 Folkestone-based staff have chosen to stay on at the company, it is understood as many as 50 have left the firm in the wake of the depot closure on Sunday.

The majority of employees affected are drivers.

Stagecoach says most of its workers transferred to its Dover depot with a smaller number choosing to make the journey to its Ashford base.

The firm’s south east managing director, Joel Mitchell, said: “This is a big change for all of them, and for our business, that will help safeguard the future of bus services in the area for the long-term.

"I want to say a huge thank you to everyone involved – our local trade union representatives and colleagues who are now starting out at their new work base, as well as those welcoming them, who have all worked tirelessly and continue to do so as we readjust.

Stagecoach South East’s managing director Joel Mitchell
Stagecoach South East’s managing director Joel Mitchell

"I also want to thank those colleagues for their service who have decided to move on and who have left the business at this juncture.”

It comes as Stagecoach has been battling a driver shortage – blaming the issue for being unable to meet planned timetables.

Yesterday morning, the firm tweeted that several buses were cancelled in Folkestone and Dover “due to no available driver”.

However, Mr Mitchell was keen to reassure customers about Stagecoach’s ability to keep up with demand with plans in place to tackle the “small shortfall”.

"The depot changes have resulted in a small shortfall in the number of drivers, which our training team is working fast to resolve,” he said.

“This will have a limited short-term impact on services in the area, but we are working hard to minimise that, and I apologise to our customers who have been affected.

"Where we do have to make day-to-day service changes, we are providing live updates through our Twitter feed @StagecoachSE.”

The bus company claims the viability of its operations in Folkestone has declined over recent years, accelerated by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Rising costs, fewer passengers and traffic congestion also forced Stagecoach to make changes.

The fates of seven routes which were in the firing lane have also been confirmed.

Most of the Folkestone-based staff have moved to other depots in east Kent
Most of the Folkestone-based staff have moved to other depots in east Kent

Routes 74/74A (East Cliff – town centre – Broadmead) and 75 (Holywell – Downs Road – town centre) will combine to create a new 74 bus operated by Kent County Council.

Route 73 (Hawkinge – Park Farm – town centre) will also be taken over by county officials while the route 16B (Hythe Prince of Wales to Folkestone and Hawkinge) afternoon-only journey will be renumbered route 974.

Routes 70 (Shorncliffe – Golden Valley – town centre) and 16A (Hythe Grebe Crescent to Folkestone) morning-only journeys have been lost, with customers being advised to take route 10 and 102 from Dymchurch Road respectively.

Route 16 will become a Folkestone to Canterbury route and no longer operate between Folkestone and Hythe.

No update was given on the 105 (Lydd to Folkestone) morning-only journey.

It has also been confirmed the depot closure will not affect the bus station at Bouverie Square in Folkestone.

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