County transportation chiefs have suspended controversial plans to cut underutilized bus services to save money.
Kent County Council says it suspended the decision after a backbench committee called for a rethink and urged the authority to reconsider its plans. The reprieve will likely mean KCC misses its mid-October deadline to implement its scheme, which will save £2.2million.
KCC’s cabinet will meet next Tuesday to decide how to respond to a call from all-party advisers to withdraw its plans and hold a debate at a full council meeting, which is expected to take place in September.
There has been an outcry over elements of the plans, with complaints that the end of 38 services will leave vulnerable people living in small rural villages more isolated.
In a statement, KCC said those plans to remove subsidies were on hold “pending further board meetings in September.”
“Therefore, bus services that would have been affected will continue as usual until further notice and will accept Kent Travel Saver bus passes and other ticket types,” it adds.
Meanwhile, the county council says it has taken action to support some bus services which were under threat of being withdrawn by operators because they were not profitable enough.
Some commercial bus operators had planned to discontinue school routes because they were not economically viable, due to declining passenger numbers, rising costs and shortage of drivers.
However, KCC negotiated with companies to keep some of them in response to complaints from some families that their children had no way to go to school.
KCC Chief Cll Roger Gough said: ‘We recognized that the scale of the changes planned by the operators would have a serious impact on the ability of many pupils to travel to and from school independently. in September.
“Despite best efforts, we know there will still be gaps in services, but unfortunately the council is not in a financial position to adopt the services that operators are seeking to withdraw.”
The curator praised operators and council officials for finding ways to maintain some of the services at risk.
“Together, they have done a tremendous job of redressing a concerning situation for families in parts of the county and providing a range of services that will allow as many students as possible to access school bus routes starting in September,” he added.
Through this joint work, bus operators have:
- Maintaining school transport options for Maidstone schools from the Aylesford area.
- Connections retained for children traveling from Herne Bay and Whitstable to Spiers Academy in Canterbury
- Establishment of an alternative bus network taking children from the Sevenoaks area to Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells
- Connections restored for pupils attending Harvey Grammar School in Folkestone.
- Retained some services at Homewood School.
- Retained service from Canterbury to Westwood and non-peak round trip.
- Details of all service changes can be found on the KCC website at www.kent.gov.uk/buses.