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Chatham's new £7m bus station opens today

By Danny Boyle
Richard Carwardine, 35, from Chatham, looks puzzled at the instructions showing where to catch his bus.
Richard Carwardine, 35, from Chatham, looks puzzled at the instructions showing where to catch his bus.

Blank screens and no bins, toilets or zebra crossings - it's the first day in the life of Chatham's new bus station.

Passengers questioned dozens of police officers, council stewards and Arriva employees this morning as more than 1,000 services a day began from the £7 million "dynamic bus facility", which has been compared to giant mushrooms and spaceships.

Earlier, Medway Council leader Rodney Chambers admitted there will be teething problems.

Cllr Les Wicks (Con) is harangued by retired delivery driver Eric Sharp, 79.
Cllr Les Wicks (Con) is harangued by retired delivery driver Eric Sharp, 79.

Cllr Les Wicks (Con), who spoke to passengers at the Globe Lane terminal, admitted it was "unsafe" as it had no zebra crossings.

The first bus, the number 136 to Gravesend, left at 5.27am. Since then several passengers have been seen using a speed hump as a crossing, narrowly missing buses, while others have complained at the lack of bins and toilets and said the terminal is too exposed.

Chatham resident Eric Sharp, 79, told Cllr Wicks: "It's one big balls-up, there's no other word for it. How do you cross the road?"

Cllr Wicks, left, replied: "I think it's unsafe at the moment and I don't mind saying that. They have failed to put the zebra crossings in and that is an issue I will be raising."

He added: "You don't make omelettes without breaking eggs. You could argue about the design and so on, but Chatham needs regenerating."

It is thought the bus station's toilets will open next week while engineers are working on fixing electronic displays which tell passengers which stop to go from rather than permanent stops. Many were blank or showing Windows screensavers or "no signal" messages this morning.

Another oversight meant the same map has been used on both sides of the terminal without being mirrored, meaning one was effectively back-to-front.

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Passengers criticised the glass-and-metal framed "platforms", saying they would let in too much wind and rain compared to the indoor Pentagon bus station, which closed last night after a £300,000 council payout to Arriva.

Retired engineer Douglas Beevis, 81, from Rochester, said: "It will be really cold out here when the weather turns."

Chatham resident Richard Carwardine, 35, said: "Give it a couple of months and you'll have all the yobs smashing the glass."

Mother-of-three Sam Webb, 30, added: "I nearly got run over pushing the pram earlier. I was crossing and the bus didn't stop for me."

The bus station, which is £2 million over its original budget, was funded with part of a £127 million government grant but landed the council with unexpected costs of more than £700,000.

It was opposed by many residents and traders, who objected to demolishing the Sir John Hawkins flyover and uprooting trees.

A small handful of people praised the terminal this morning with one, Kim Collier, 45, saying: "I actually think it's very nice. I found the other one very dark and quite disgusting, and I didn't feel that safe."

Cllr Rodney Chambers (Con), who was at the terminal as it opened, said: "There will be problems at first while people get used to the new bus system.

"I recognise people don't like change, but this is a massive step forward in the regeneration of Chatham."

What do you think? Join the debate by adding your comments below
What do you think? Join the debate by adding your comments below

The new station in Globe Lane has been controversial since its inception in 2005.

Many residents opposed the terminal and other proposals in Chatham town centre, including two-way traffic, uprooting trees and the demolition of the Sir John Hawkins flyover.

The council amended some plans but pressed ahead with the majority of them, as it had to spend its £127 million government grant before March this year.

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