A petition has been launched in a bid to halt proposed cuts to Stagecoach bus services in Thanet.
From August 28, there will be timetable changes affecting routes 8, 8A, 8X, 9, 32, 34, 45 and Loop. School-time services 932, 933, 943, 946, 948, 949 and 989 will also change.
Route 33 (Eastern Esplanade, Kingsgate, Grange Road, Stanley Road, East Dumpton and Colburn Road) and Route 37 (Stanley Road, Lanthorne Road/Stone Road, St. Peter’s Village and The Silvers) will no longer operate and from the same date, route 9 will no longer run between Monkton and Canterbury.
There will also be a raft of timetable alterations and changes to school bus services.
A petition has now been launched by Broadstairs resident and former councillor Jenny Matterface who led the campaign against cuts by Kent County Council to subsidised routes in 2018.
This campaign resulted in some routes being retained. Now the campaign has been reactivated and a new petition is gathering pace.
Jenny said: “We had some success three to four years ago when, although some routes were changed and timetabling less than perhaps what we would have liked, we kept our bus routes that are a vital link for many, not just the elderly.
“These current proposals will have a detrimental impact on many who don’t or wish not to drive because communities will be left stranded without transport. Public transport should be available for all who need it.”
The campaign is being backed by Broadstairs councillor Aram Rawf.
Cllr Aram, who represents Beacon Road ward on the town and district councils, has voiced concern about the impact on the community if the 33 and 37 routes are axed and the 9 route shortened.
He said: “The axing of Thanet bus routes 33 and 37, and the shortening of route 9, will affect many students, parents with pushchairs and elderly people trying to get out and about in the district.
“Students, families and those travelling to employment, including key workers, find buses cheaper than the train even where it is available, while there are children who have legal entitlement to free school transport.
“With the cost of living and petrol prices in particular going up, many elderly people rely on buses to get them out of their house. For some, it may be the only day-to-day contact they have with other people. These bus cuts will have social and psychological effects on many elderly people.
“Instead of cutting the buses, we need to see improvements to encourage people to use them in order to reduce the number of cars on the roads and help address the climate emergency.”
Fellow Broadstairs ward councillor Mike Garner said the cuts during the cost of living crisis are the wrong decision: “I’ve been contacted by a number of residents in my ward who rely on the bus to go about their daily business and are now concerned that they will struggle with everything from shopping to attending Doctors appointments.
“As an example, the 37 is the only bus which serves the Wimpey Estate and these cuts mean a number of people who struggle to walk and either don’t have or can’t afford a car will become more isolated. This is a scenario which will be replicated in other towns across Kent. This reduction in services during a cost of living crises is the wrong decision at the wrong time and we need to press Stagecoach to think again before it’s too late.”
County Councillor Karen Constantine added: “I really worry how people will manage with these cuts. Those that use these services depend on them and alternative travel is both difficult and expensive.
“People on low incomes or fixed budgets will struggle. I also worry how Stagecoach will organise services from Ramsgate and elsewhere, to the new Parkway railway station. Are they making cuts to services now in order to be able to fund future bus services to Parkway?”
Stagecoach South East Managing Director Joel MitchellJoel Mitchell, Managing Director of Stagecoach South East, said: “We’ve done everything we can to protect services since the pandemic.
“We want to regenerate our customer base and bring people back to using buses as quickly as possible so we can expand our networks, but before we can do that, we’ve got to make some difficult decisions, working closely with the County Council, to agree a new network that reflects fundamental changes to people’s travel habits brought about by the pandemic. This network review is also a condition of government recovery funding for bus services across England.
“Where some services are reduced, it’s a tough decision, because we know the impact it may have on individual people, but this new network for Thanet is designed to protect core connections and operate them on a sustainable basis against a backdrop of rising costs and labour challenges across the UK economy.”
The petition will be delivered to Mr Mitchell.