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Bus service cuts put on hold by Kent County Council

County transport chiefs have put on hold controversial plans to axe under-used bus services to save money.

Kent County Council says it has paused the decision after a backbench committee called for a rethink and urged the authority to reconsider its plans. The reprieve is likely to mean that KCC will miss its deadline of mid-October to implement its programme, which will save £2.2m.

KCC’s cabinet will meet next Tuesday to decide how to respond to the call from councillors of all parties to withdraw its plans and hold a debate at a full council meeting, which is scheduled to take place in September.

There has been uproar over elements of the plans, with complaints that ending 38 services will leave vulnerable people living in small rural villages more isolated.

In a statement, KCC said that those plans to end subsidies were on hold “pending further council meetings in September".

"Therefore, the bus services that would have been affected will continue as usual until further notice and accept Kent Travel Saver bus passes and other ticket types," it adds.

Meanwhile, the county council says that it has moved to support some bus services that were under threat of being withdrawn by operators because they were not profitable enough.

Cllr Roger Gough, leader of Kent County Council
Cllr Roger Gough, leader of Kent County Council

Some commercial bus operators had planned to stop running routes that serve schools because they were economically unviable, due to lower passenger numbers, rising costs and driver shortages.

However, KCC has negotiated with companies to maintain some of these in response to complaints from some families that their children had no way of getting to school.

KCC leader Cll Roger Gough said: “We recognised that the scale of the changes planned by operators would have a serious impact on the ability of many pupils to get to and from school independently this September.

"Despite best efforts, we know that there will still be some service gaps, but unfortunately the council is not in a financial position to adopt the services which operators are looking to withdraw.”

The Conservative praised both operators and council officials for finding ways to maintain some of the services under threat.

“Together, they have done a tremendous job of turning round a worrying situation for families in some parts of the county and offering a range of services that enable as many pupils as possible to access school bus routes from September," he added.

As a result of this joint work, bus operators have:

  • Maintained school transport options for schools in Maidstone from the Aylesford area.
  • Retained connections for children travelling from Herne Bay and Whitstable to Spires Academy in Canterbury
  • Provided an alternative network of buses taking children from the Sevenoaks area to Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells
  • Restored connections for pupils attending Harvey Grammar School in Folkestone.
  • Retained some services to Homewood School.
  • Retained a service from Canterbury to Westwood and one return journey in the off peak.
  • Details of all service changes can be found on KCC’s website at www.kent.gov.uk/buses.
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