THE alteration of a Pembury bus route has become political after the local borough councillor accused the local county councillor of ‘an appalling lack of representation’.
Conservative Paul Barrington-King made the comments about UKIP’s Chris Hoare after residents warned the changes to the routes introduced on Sunday (April 2) are leaving them ‘stranded’.
His criticism also comes as residents are set to go to the polls on May 4 for county council elections.
Bus operator Arriva blamed low passenger numbers for its decision to scale back on routes 6 and 6A which have led to parts of Pembury being cut off from the network. Outlying areas, such as Colts Hill and Five Oak Green have seen services on the 6A discontinued altogether.
In addition, the length of route 6, which previously ran between Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone town centres now terminates at East Peckham, except for school bus services which will continue to run the entire route. Evening buses are also being axed.
Cllr Barrington King, who represents Pembury ward at borough level, said his counterparts at KCC were told of the changes almost a year ago but claims Cllr Hoare had denied he knew of them.
He said: “These changes would have been made known to KCC councillors via the results of a consultation last May and the confidential briefing where they were told that residents would not like it.
“Ergo our Councillor cannot say he did not know as there were emails and telephone calls informing him from residents.
“My view on this is that many Pembury residents who depend on this service will be left waiting at bus stops for a bus that will never arrive. It is unforgivable that we have lost this service through an appalling lack of representation at County level.”
However, Cllr Hoare, who represents Tunbridge Wells East – a county council division that covers Pembury – hit back, saying he has forwarded ‘seven emails to KCC and Arriva’ regarding complaints by residents.
He added; “I have emailed and spoken with Arrive head office. The issue is viability of routes as these were proven to be financially unviable.”
Cllr Hoare also showed correspondence to the Times that he has had from Steve Pay, Planning and Operations Manager, in which Mr Pay says KCC is ‘is not in a position to resolve’ every issue arising from the numerous route changes made by Arriva.
Arriva’s Marketing Director, Simon Baxter, said: “Following an extensive review, we have made changes that aim to improve reliability across the network.
“Unfortunately due to low passenger numbers during the day, it is not commercially viable to continue to run service 6 to Maidstone. However, buses at school times will continue to Maidstone and there will also be a new Sunday service between Tunbridge Wells and East Peckham.
“Passengers can still reach Maidstone using service 7 which has been improved to run every 20 minutes between Maidstone, Hadlow, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells. There is also a new service 66 which will run on weekdays between East Peckham and Maidstone Hospital with connections available to the town centre.”