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Maidstone Green party petition against Kent County Council bus cuts gathers 700 signatures

A petition calling on Kent County Council to abandon its plans to slash support for dozens of bus services has been signed by more than 700 people.

The campaign was set up by Stuart Jeffery of the Maidstone Green Party.

Stuart Jeffery
Stuart Jeffery

He said: “Just a few weeks ago, the UN stated that it was ‘now or never’ to act on climate change, yet KCC is actively cutting services that will result in more cars on our roads and more CO2 in our air.

“Coupled with its anti-environmental cuts, KCC is hurting people who rely on these services and forcing people into cars at a time when petrol prices are through the roof."

Mr Jeffery added: “Our roads in Maidstone are not coping with the current levels of traffic.

"We need more buses and fewer cars, so we are calling on KCC to reverse its plans for these cuts to essential services.”

Today is the last day of KCC's public consultation on its proposed cuts.

Bus services are under threat
Bus services are under threat

The highways authority has declared that it needs to save £2.2m from the £6m it is currently spending per year subsidising non-commercial services.

In its consultation, KCC asks passengers which service they use, how often, and what would be their alternative means of transport if the service were withdrawn.

The Green's petition states: “With the dire state of Maidstone's already congested roads, rising fuel prices and the requirements for strong action on climate change, bus services need to be invested in, not cut.

"We therefore call on you to reverse your plans for cuts to these essential bus services and to invest in additional services that are urgently required.”

Currently, there are 127 bus contracts supported by KCC, either in totality or funding for a specific journey, such as a Sunday service.

The Maidstone services at risk
The Maidstone services at risk

But KCC is looking to do away with 48 of those contracts.

They include the X1/X2 weekday services between Kings Hill and Maidstone, and the 208/209 from East Peckham, near Tonbridge, to Pembury.

A supported bus service is one that is not deemed economically viable for private bus operators to run themselves, but regarded as socially important.

The final decision on cuts rests with cabinet member for transport, Cllr David Brazier.

Any changes will come into effect in August.

Cabinet member Cllr David Brazier
Cabinet member Cllr David Brazier

Mr Jeffery said: “These services are the ones that have previously been supported by KCC for good reason.

"They are in danger of imprisoning people in rural areas."

Garry Baillie is only 51, but he suffers health problems that make walking difficult. He lives in Dickens Road, Ringlestone.

He said: "It's difficult to know how our bus service could get any worse.

"Arriva has already stopped calling here and the only service we have is the Nu Venture 29 that runs between Maidstone and Peters Village."

"They are in danger of imprisoning people in rural areas."

Mr Baillie said: "That comes only twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, leaving Ringlestone at 10.20am. It comes back from Maidstone at 12.08pm, so you have to do all your shopping in about and hour and a half."

Nu Venture currently operates an evening service, the 155, along the route, and a Sunday service, but both are scheduled to stop - on April 30 and May 2 respectively.

Mr Baillie said it was true that a more frequent Arriva service passed by on the main A229 Chatham Road. But he said: "That's a long way to walk to pick that up. It's not possible for the elderly or disabled and not fair on them."

KCC said that as a result of changes in behaviour following Covid, even fewer people were using the services than before.

Cllr Brazier added: “We entirely understand how vital some of these bus routes are to some residents and communities and we are committed to working closely with partners, providers and passengers in the future.”

You can visit the consultation by clicking here.

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