Kent County Council has performed a u-turn on plans to cut dozens of bus routes that would have saved the council £4m over two years.
Following criticism from the public, the reductions have been pulled back from £2.25m to £455,000 for the next financial year.
The council announced yesterday that more than 70 bus routes, which are a lifeline to the most vulnerable in Kent, will no longer be scrapped.
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However five out of 78 socially necessary bus service (SNBS) routes in Thanet and between Edenbridge and Sevenoaks are still under threat.
Following talks with Stagecoach and Go Coach, these journeys will be part of a local consultation in April:
• 39: Sherwood Gardens loop, Dumpton and Nixon Avenue
• 42: Windermere Avenue/Rydal Avenue, Nethercourt
• 56: St Peter’s Road/Vicarage Street, St Peter’s and Stone Road/Lanthorne Road/Knights Avenue, Broadstairs
• 404: Edenbridge to Sevenoaks/Plaxtol to Borough Green
• 405: Sevenoaks, Otford and West Kingsdown
Cabinet member for highways, Cllr Mike Whiting, said: “I am grateful to both Stagecoach and Go Coach for these innovative proposals which will allow us to make the necessary savings to our budget this year.
“I was clear at the outset that any changes proposed would not affect school services or leave communities without a service, and I believe these proposals achieve that.”
Cllr Antony Hook, (Lib Dem) said: “We welcome this u-turn – the Kent Liberal Democrats gave voice to thousands of people angry at Conservative plans to cut support for 78 socially necessary bus routes.
“The Tories have caved to public pressure.
“These are buses that people need to access education, work, health services and shops.
“Cutting them would have been a real blow to many Kent families, including the elderly, disabled and many poorer people who do not have access to cars.
“Small businesses would have suffered too, as customers relying on these services would no longer have be able to reach them.
“This is victory for the people of Kent and, as the official opposition at County Hall, the Liberal Democrats will continue to hold the Tories to account.”
The consultation on the plans, named “The Big Conversation”, is set to be discussed in parish councils, with tranport providers and at the Rural Bus Summit in the summer.
The proposals will also be discussed at the environment and transport cabinet committee on March 20.