A petition has been put up to urge Kent County Council to reconsider proposed cuts to ‘supported’ bus services.

Eleven local services are threatened by plans presented to KCC’s environment and transport cabinet committee on Friday.

Maidstone buses are at risk due to route cuts

The authority wants to cut its £6m budget for services to £4.3m.

Currently, 127 bus contracts are supported by KCC, including a mix of support and funding for specific routes, such as Sundays.

The county council proposed to cut about 48 contracts, representing about 37% of the total number of services supported by KCC.

KCC’s paper shows that in Maidstone and Malling the biggest savings will come from X1/X2 services between County Town and West Malling/Kings Hill. That works out to £207,721, while a KCC could save £126,000 by cutting the Maidstone road at Grafty Green.

Weekday X1/X2 services between Kings Hill and Maidstone are at risk, as well as 208/209 from East Peckham, near Tonbridge, to Pembury.

Maidstone roads under threat
Maidstone roads under threat

Other roads at risk include Routes 8, 9, 343, 344 and 345 in Sittingbourne Rurals; 58 from Addington to Maidstone and 17 from Folkestone to Canterbury.

A supported bus service is a service that is not considered economically viable for private bus operators, but considered socially important.

Councils can step in to fill service gaps.

This includes Kent Karrier, a pay-as-you-go service that offers inexpensive trips to seniors, residents who live in rural areas and those with serious health conditions.

In particular, the small village of Detling risks being completely isolated. It comes after the civil parish already suffered significant cuts in 2016. This saw the 333 and 334 Arriva routes between Detling and Maidstone come to a halt after 9.30am.

KCC transport cabinet member David Brazier said the council needed to take
KCC transport cabinet member David Brazier said the council had to make ‘tough decisions’

If the cuts are approved, the changes will be implemented in August 2022.

Stuart Jeffery, Green Party campaigner in Maidstone, who started the petition, said: “With the dire state of Maidstone’s already congested roads, rising fuel prices and demands for strong action on climate change , bus services should be invested, not cut.

“These services are those that have already been supported by KCC for a good reason, the services are there for those who need them most, including the Kent Karrier program.

“KCC should not cut bus services, especially those for people who need them most. We need more buses, not more cars.

KCC’s Cabinet Member for Transport, Cllr David Brazier (Con), says the County Council must make ‘tough decisions’ amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“This will imprison many people in rural areas…”

Cllr Brazier said: “In light of the significant costs and growing demand pressures KCC faces in 2022/23, the board must make difficult decisions to ensure it is able to continue to deliver. discharge its statutory responsibilities.”

Opposition parties, including the Greens and Labour, have strongly opposed the move, calling it “ill-timed”.

Cllr Barry Lewis (Lab), who is a member of KCC’s shadow cabinet for transport, said: “Many people rely on bus services to meet friends and go shopping. This will trap many people in rural areas.

Cllr Mark Hood (Green), who represents Tonbridge, added: “The danger is that without a more generous government funding deal, this year’s cuts will be followed by many more.”

However, KCC’s Tonbridge and Malling Councilor for Malling Rural East, Sarah Hudson, said: ‘Unfortunately taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize unsustainable bus routes, whose funding from Developer Contributions has ended. . Covid-19 has had a significant impact on travel from Kings Hill and this has impacted the economic viability of the route.

Green Party campaigner Stuart Jeffery believes busing should be invested in, not cut
Green Party campaigner Stuart Jeffery believes busing should be invested in, not cut

Arriva, which is one of the main bus operators working in Kent, described the discounts on offer as “limited”.

The Local Government Association says emergency government funding is needed to save many bus services across England.

Kent County Councilors will discuss the bus consultation in an online debate on Friday February 18 from 2pm.

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

Residents will be able to have their say in a public poll on the proposed cuts until April 22 and any agreed cuts would be implemented in August.

n Sign the petition at www.tinyurl.com/km-bus-petition