Reinstating bus services in villages around Dover and Deal was top of the agenda during crunch talks with Stagecoach bosses. The firm's South East acting managing director Mike Watson and commercial director Matthew Arnold met with me to discuss recent changes.
Last year Stagecoach cut a number of commercial routes in rural areas. Kent County Council also announced that a further 78 subsidised services across the county were under threat. I led a campaign by Kent MPs against the plans. Council leader Paul Carter agreed to halt the proposals and launch a consultation.
Dover has now been selected as one of five areas for a new public transport pilot scheme – re-establishing regular services into Northbourne, Great Mongeham, Sholden, Ash and Staple from summer 2019.
We have had to fight incredibly hard for bus services in our corner of Kent. But it has paid off – because we are one of the few areas getting them re-instated. There is still a lot more to do. Stagecoach has been engaging well but I was clear I want to see more work done, particularly on services for Eythorne and between River and Canterbury. People in rural areas rely on buses to go to school and work and access vital services. The council must keep working with the bus companies to ensure people aren't cut off.
A new bus service will be created for Northbourne and Great Mongeham, connecting to existing services at Sholden and Ash along the main routes between Canterbury, Sandwich and Dover. New shelters will be constructed at Northbourne and Great Mongeham, with real time information departure boards. Timetables, routes and fares will be confirmed closer to the launch in 2019.
A KCC spokesman said the feeder service would be going out to public procurement. Stagecoach South East Commercial Director Matthew Arnold confirmed Stagecoach would be bidding for the contract.
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