TONBRIDGE MP Tom Tugendhat is calling on residents to help him save the region’s bus services.
Kent County Council [KCC] is planning to end its subsidy for the transport provision, saving an estimated £4million.
This will mean 78 bus routes are under threat across the county, including more than 20 in the local area.
County Hall is setting up a consultation service in January and Mr Tugendhat wants the public to use that exercise to stop KCC making the decision.
Mr Tugendhat told the Times: “The consultation will be launched in January and we need to make sure that we respond and make strong arguments as to why these services are needed.”
He added: “It may be obvious to some of us but we need to make this clear to those who make the decisions – our elected county councillors.
Mr Tugendhat has been running a campaign to improve bus services, especially for schoolchildren. He compiled a list of more than 600 grievances from constituents, and brought together bus companies and school representatives to thrash out fresh agreements.
He was also instrumental in the introduction of a new bus service, 502 from Hildenborough through Tonbridge to schools in St John’s, Tunbridge Wells.
Comment: Tom Tugendhat on the bus cuts
We all rely on public transport to some extent. Either directly – to get to school or work – or because people we know need it to get around and want less traffic on the roads. For many of us cars are expensive, and not always convenient. That’s why buses are an essential part of our community.
For school children, there isn’t the option to drive, and many of you will know I’ve been campaigning for better bus services to and from school for nearly a year now. We have seen lots change in that time, but not always for the better.
Since the start of term I have been running my survey on school buses and am grateful for the hundreds of parents who responded. The results don’t make good reading. For more than eight in ten children their bus is overcrowded. This doesn’t create a good and comfortable journey to school.
The solution to this issue is for more buses to be available, rather than fewer, and that is why we should all be interested in the proposals which Kent County Council will be asking for our thoughts on in the New Year.
Their plan is to end the subsidy which they provide to local bus services. This is worrying news.
There are nearly 80 routes and locally around 20 of these affect us in Tonbridge, Edenbridge and Malling. These services are mainly rural and places like Penshurst, Leigh, Plaxtol and Borough Green will be affected the most.
These are routes for everyone, and not dedicated school buses, but many school children rely on a regular service to get home, particularly if they are going to an after-school club or have been let out early as happens on some days at some of our local schools in Tonbridge.
But it’s not just rural communities who are affected, in Tonbridge the Barden Road estate will lose a bus service. As well as being close to the High Street and station, the bus allows all residents to access communities which they would otherwise be unable to do.
This is why this consultation matters and why all of us, irrespective of whether we have children using a school bus service or not, should be aware of the changes to come.
But the decision has not been made yet – and that is where I need your help. The consultation will be launched in January and we need to make sure that we respond and make strong arguments as to why these services are needed. It may be obvious to some of us but we need to make this clear to those who make the decisions – our elected county councillors.
Though only 3 per cent of bus journeys in Kent may be affected, we should all have our say.