Kent transport

Kent, Manston and Eurostar county buses

Planes, trains and buses – yes, there is a theme in this week’s political news. Here, Paul Francis gives his point of view and his analysis of the week…

As the children’s song says…the wheels of the bus are turning in circles – until a conservative revolt…

KentOnline political editor Paul Francis gives his views and analysis of the week in politics

Are the County Council’s controversial plans to cut 38 bus services collapsing?

Anyone who has listened to a recent debate on the issue at a cross-party committee meeting would be right to conclude that the authorities may be preparing the ground for a tactical withdrawal from the plans that have managed to generate so much opposition.

It is rare to see such an open revolt at County Hall.

The fact that disgruntled Tories have joined the Green Party, Labor and the Liberal Democrats in demanding a postponement of the cuts suggests the ruling Conservative administration has failed to appease advisers whose email boxes are inundated of complaints.

Seeing such opposition of the “blue on blue” type, you know that something is going on.

Kent County Council bus service proposals are controversial
Kent County Council bus service proposals are controversial

Even the Tory chairman of a cross-party committee described the impact of the cuts as “an absolute nightmare” and voted for the cuts program to be postponed.

Yet the scale of the growing opposition does not appear to have impressed the politician responsible for overseeing the implementation of the policy.

Cllr David Brazier, cabinet member for transport, berated his critics on the cross-party review panel, saying much of the discussion had been ‘very emotional’ and that it was not the basis of a good debate.

He also told the committee that the public had confused decisions by commercial operators to cut services with subsidized services maintained by the county council.

File it under “How to make friends and influence people”.

If you were to design a strategy from scratch to achieve many, if not all, of these goals, you would likely make providing bus service one of your top priorities.

So what now? The Conservative cabinet must now decide whether it will accede to the call for a debate on the cuts at next month’s plenary meeting, which could put the policy’s implementation on hold.

Expect a tactical retreat, if not a full U-turn.

Manston

The long saga around Manston airport, closed in 2014, seems to have come to an end.

The future of Manston Airport is a long-standing saga.  Photo: Terry Scott
The future of Manston Airport is a long-standing saga. Photo: Terry Scott

The owners eventually obtained a development consent order from the government to develop the site as a cargo hub.

Unsurprisingly, the announcement divided opinion; supporters welcomed the news; naysayers say it will never take off and in the middle many people wonder why all the fuss.

Still, at least the fate of the airport seems a little clearer than it had been.

But time will tell if it changes the situation and if all legal avenues have been exhausted by those who remain implacably opposed to the plan.

Eurostar said it would not stop in Kent to "two to three years".  Photo: Steve Salter
Eurostar said it would not stop in Kent for “two to three years”. Photo: Steve Salter

Eurostar

No boarding at Ashford or Ebbsfleet… anytime soon.

What future for Ashford International station? The answer – no one knows.

The only thing we do know is that Eurostar services were due to resume stopping services at the station next year.

This week we learned that the timetable has been pushed back again, with the company saying services could stop in Kent not in 2023 but in 2024… and possibly delayed by 2025.

Seems long and it is, not least because some of the considerable investment in the city, as many have pointed out, has been based on the high-speed connections from the station.

The French government agreed to a bailout for Eurostar, but the UK did not.

Time to rethink?