Villagers will have the chance to share their views regarding rural transport as Kent County Council launches a consultation into services.
Mike Whiting, KCC cabinet member for transport, says the scheme will help the authority identify areas of improvement. He said: “We want to explore how we can improve connectivity for our rural residents and assess the viability of offering different kinds of services.
“That’s why for the next couple of months we’re meeting with all stakeholders – residents, parish councils, operators – and running our “Big Conversation” programme to see what we could do and get feedback from the people that could run them and use them.
“Once we have explored potential ideas with the market and completed our engagement with residents we will work on developing these ideas.
“We’ll then be working with transport and technology providers to look at how we can develop new ways of delivering rural transport.”
The main objectives of the programme are to maintain and, where possible, improve rural accessibility for those without alternative means of travel.
It will also look to integrate existing transport with the commercial transport network and make best use of technology to transform access to public transport.
Kent County Council issues over 298,000 concessionary travel bus passes for the elderly and disabled as well as helping to transport 32,000 young people through the unique young persons and 16+ travel cards.
Around 97% of journeys in Kent are run by private operators, such as Arriva and Stagecoach, with over 50 operators covering 600 services or routes.
Over the last 30 years KCC has funded some routes which, while not commercially viable, have been considered important to meet the needs of the communities and passengers they serve.
Labour ward councillor Jenny Matterface said: “The proposed subsidy cuts to Thanet’s bus routes, numbers 39, 42 and 56, will leave many residents isolated and unable to visit their GP, go shopping, attend social events, QEQM, change library books etc.
“Many bus users have been in touch with me asking why the public consultation meeting is being held in Birchington a destination unreachable from Broadstairs by bus since the services under threat don’t go there and the only other route from the town that does, runs early mornings only. In addition why an evening meeting?
“Does KCC not want anyone to attend so they could claim there is no interest? We need a meeting that is accessible to as many as possible and day-time.”
UPDATE – Birchington venue changed to Margate
Meetings and parish seminars.
There will be 11 public meetings between 7pm and 9pm at:
Dover Town Hall, The Maison Dieu, Biggin Street Dover CT16 1DL on June 19
Margate Football Club, Hartsdown Park, Hartsdown Road, Margate, CT9 5QZ on June 21
Elite Venue, Dunkirk Close, Gravesend, DA12 5ND on June 26
STAG Community Arts Centre, Sevenoaks TN13 1ZZ on July 4
Borough Green Village Hall, Borough Green, TN15 8DG on July 5
University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NZ, on July 10
Homewood School & Sixth Form Centre, Ashford Road, Tenterden, TN30 6LT on July 11
St Mary’s Bay Village Hall, Romney Marsh, TN29 OSW on July 12
High Weald Academy, Angley Road, Cranbrook TN17 2PJ on July 17
UK P Leisure, Avenue of Remembrance, Sittingbourne ME10 4DE on July 18
Lecture Theatre, Sessions House, Maidstone, ME14 1XQ on July 19