Published: 06:00, 21 April 2021
| Updated: 15:13, 21 April 2021
Bus services are at risk after Arriva announced it was looking to close the Sheerness hub and axe its Island-only routes.
The company has told Kent County Council (KCC) it intends to stop running the 360, 361 and 367 from June 16.
They link areas such as Eastchurch, Warden and Leysdown to the west of the Island, and Queenborough with Sheerness and Minster.
Under the proposals, the bus station in Bridge Road, Sheerness would be shut, although there is no suggestion the services between the Island and mainland would be affected.
An Arriva spokesman said: “The closure of our Sheerness Depot is being discussed, in consultation with Kent County Council and our Trade Union.
“Our priority throughout any potential closure process is for it to run as smoothly as possible, with minimal impact on our customers and their journeys as well as on our staff.
“We remain committed to serving Kent, as well as providing continuity of bus services across the region by ensuring the majority of routes are operated out of our Gillingham and Maidstone depots.”
Sheppey’s MP Gordon Henderson wrote to Arriva after hearing rumours about cuts, but has not heard back.
He added: “If Arriva do hope to withdraw their services I will be doing everything I can to get an alternative provider to provide buses.”
KCC are understood to be looking for other firms to take on the routes.
Tim Lambkin, who owns Travelmasters in Sheerness, said: “As an Island-based bus company we would be interested in getting involved. This decision will leave a lot of people stranded on Sheppey.”
Meanwhile, a petition set up to stop the cuts has been signed by 400 people. Julie Hursell, from Queenborough, started it after hearing the news from a driver.
The 47-year-old, who works at Maidstone’s Hilton hotel, has been getting the 334 for the past eight years as she does not drive.
She also uses the Island’s buses for shopping and visiting her mother in Eastchurch.
She said: “So many people rely on our buses. People use them to get to work and the elderly need them to go shopping or to hospital appointments.”
Cllr Cameron Beart (Con), who represents Queenborough and Halfway, is one of the signatories. He said: "Local bus services are vitally important to the Island, especially to older residents who rely on them to maintain their independence.
"I am very concerned about the proposed changes that not only put our service at risk but also local jobs.
"I hope a solution can be found and I am actively supporting the calls to save our services.”
If Arriva does pull out of Sheppey, Islanders will no longer be able to reach a number of vital services via bus including doctors’ surgeries, Sheppey Community Hospital at Minster, Neats Court Retail Park, supermarkets and shops in Sheerness town centre.
The move will make it even harder for people living on Sheppey to go about their everyday lives. Under the plans, one of the routes that would be affected is the 367 from Sheerness Tesco to Warden Point – a service that exists to serve people getting to the supermarket from the east end of the Island.
It comes after Arriva already slashed a number of bus services on Sheppey, with a new timetable, at the end of 2019.
Among those axed was the 368, which linked the Neats Court retail centre at Queenborough with Rushenden, Halfway and importantly the Sheppey Community Hospital at Minster.
Arriva said the service was withdrawn because it was no longer commercially viable after Morrisons scrapped its financial subsidy. The supermarket chain had sponsored the service for three years as part of its planning permission for the shopping complex.
Meanwhile, in January this year, the bus firm abandoned using printed timetables.
It meant passengers on Sheppey must now either call a number or use a mobile phone to find out when the next bus is due.
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