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Shock as Wye, near Ashford, to lose all bus services – with Stagecoach and Arriva routes across Kent facing axe

Several Kent villages will be left with no bus services when a number of routes are scrapped by operators in the county.

This includes Wye, where residents are dismayed by the news that buses to nearby Ashford and Canterbury will be axed later this summer.

The 1, 1A and 1X will all see the route changed to remove the service from Wye come August 13
The 1, 1A and 1X will all see the route changed to remove the service from Wye come August 13

A number of other routes across the county will also be cut by Stagecoach and Arriva, with the firms blaming a rise in costs and a drop in passengers since the pandemic.

It comes as a government minister is set to visit the county today to announce a £16 million funding boost for local bus services.

KentOnline is yet to have it confirmed if the cash can be used to support services facing the chop, but understands help could be given to those that can be made financially-sustainable in the short-term.

The routes set to be axed include several across the Folkestone and Hythe district – as well as the number 2 between Ashford and Tenterden, which will leave Bethersden, High Halden and Great Chart without services.

KentOnline visited Wye yesterday and spoke to residents who were shocked to learn the number 1, 1A and 1X will no longer stop in the village from August 13.

Hazel Czarecki says she uses the buses daily some weeks and does not drive so relies on them to get out and about.

“It is going to be awful,” she said.

“Not everyone has a car and there are a lot of elderly people who rely on the buses.

“I cannot walk to the station and I am on my own, so how do you get around?

“I am surprised all three are being cut.”

Wye resident Hazel Czarecki
Wye resident Hazel Czarecki

Despite her disappointment, Ms Czarecki says she understands why the decision has been taken - because sometimes she has been the only person on the bus.

“But they should provide something,” she added.

“Even if there was one service in the morning and another in the afternoon, that would be better than cutting all of them.

“It will take me a while, but my only option now will be to walk to the railway station, but this means you cannot bring shopping home because you would have to carry it.”

Fellow villager Peter Goldup relies on the buses as he no longer drives due to being visually impaired.

Peter Goldup says he relies on the buses as he does not drive
Peter Goldup says he relies on the buses as he does not drive

“I use the buses all the time to get to and from the hospital for appointments,” he said.

“We have not been told what the alternative is going to be.”

Gillian Chittenden says she does not know what villagers will do as an alternative.

“We are certainly not happy about them being cut,” she added.

The village is home to Wye School, which has 562 pupils. Many of them travel via a special bus service provided by Chalkwell Coach Hire.

But principal Luke Magee told KentOnline: “We are concerned about these plans as they will impact students attending revision sessions, holiday clubs or needing to travel to and from the school outside of the normal school run.

“We very much hope that the needs of our students would be taken into account before any final decision is taken.

“Local bus services need to be available for local people; we believe that our students deserve a service that helps them best access their school.”

"We have Chalkwell school buses that do the school run, and the train. But currently students can use the public stagecoach bus at other times of the day, on the weekend and so on.

“Without it stopping in Wye, they will have to use the train, which does not service the same route as the bus."

All buses serving Wye are set to be axed in August
All buses serving Wye are set to be axed in August

But Stagecoach says the route has become commercially “unviable”.

A spokesperson said: "We've continued to provide a commercial bus service at Wye for many years, but since the pandemic, passenger numbers have fallen away and there's no longer enough bus use in the village to support a regular service.

"It's a difficult decision for us to make because we know the impact it may have on individual people who use the buses, but without a funding stream to underwrite the cost of running the service through Wye, we cannot continue to provide it.

"By making this change we can help put our service offering on a sustainable footing and refocus our available resource on maintaining core bus links in the area.

"We remain absolutely committed to working with the county council to find solutions for communities where commercial bus services are unviable."

There are several other changes across Stagecoach services in Kent
There are several other changes across Stagecoach services in Kent

Roads Minister Richard Holden is today visiting Knole Park in Sevenoaks to announce the extra government funding to be used to support bus services in Kent.

Kent County Council will receive £16.1 million to “improve local bus services, speed up bus journey times and deliver lower fares to help passengers save money on travel”.

In a statement, KCC’s cabinet member for highways and transport, Cllr David Brazier, said: “The additional money [...] will make it easier, cheaper and more reliable to get around, thereby boosting our local economy.

“This gives us an opportunity to develop our relationships with operator firms across the county to ensure people can make easy and sustainable choices when they want to move around Kent, whether that be to learn, work or play.”

Another planned cut which has sparked uproar is to the number 16 service between Hythe and Canterbury. Stagecoach wants to make it a Folkestone to Canterbury route only from September 3.

Frustrated passengers say it is a "really handy service" that needs to continue.

“I use it two or three times a week,” Moira Simons said.

“I am surprised to hear they will no longer be stopping at Hythe because I do not see how going that bit further and turning around makes such a massive difference.

“They do not want people to use their cars, but they are cutting services.”

David Russell is among those who use the number 16 bus
David Russell is among those who use the number 16 bus

Stagecoach says there will be additional buses on route 102 to provide connections at Folkestone bus station for passengers who use the 16 service to or from Hythe, Seabrook or Sandgate.

But David Russell, who lives in Sandgate, says the current route 16 is convenient.

“I can get the bus every 10 minutes in Folkestone or Hythe,” he said.

“Now it will be every 20 minutes and it will be really busy.”

Hythe resident Thomas Allen agreed, saying he will miss the "handy service".

Bus passenger Thomas Allen
Bus passenger Thomas Allen

“Now those living in Hythe will have to wait for another bus. It is ridiculous," he said.

In a statement, Stagecoach said the bus sector is facing some “big challenges”.

A spokesman said:”"Despite more people coming back to using buses, there are less people travelling less often than they did before the pandemic.

“Our costs have increased considerably over the same period too.

“This means we're having to face some difficult decisions around our operating model and service offering.

"We will always do everything we can to bring buses to as many people as possible, but we have to be realistic about what we can do as a commercial bus operator alone and where support from local government can help bring solutions.

"It's important we focus our available resource on providing the core route 16 service between Folkestone and Canterbury.

“For a small number of customers who use the service to travel through, we will be boosting the frequency of buses between Hythe and Folkestone to about every 15 minutes, ensuring there are plenty of opportunities for connection with buses at Folkestone bus station."

Stagecoach is also proposing to close its bus depot in Cheriton and transfer its operations to its bases in Dover and Ashford.

Cllr Jim Martin (Green), the new leader of Folkestone and Hythe District Council, says he is urging the bus operator to reconsider cutting its services.

Jim Martin, leader of Folkestone and Hythe District Council
Jim Martin, leader of Folkestone and Hythe District Council

“We are not just talking about services which are nice to have - these routes are vital for residents getting to work, to hospital or to school or college," he said.

“Reliable, accessible and efficient public transportation is what our community deserves, particularly at a time when climate change is a clear signal that we should be leaving cars at home.

“We appreciate the challenges facing Stagecoach but we are asking the company to think again and I will be meeting with Joel Mitchell, managing director of Stagecoach South East to discuss.”

This weekend, all buses in Kent are set to be free as part of the “Big Free Bus Weekend”. This has been possible due to more than £35 million worth of funding being given to the bus services from the government since 2022.

Arriva has also been contacted for comment.

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