Thanet Labour councillors say they want bus operator Stagecoach to meet elected members of the district council urgently to address rising local anger about the axing of routes 33 and 37 and the truncation of route 9 from the end of August.
Activists and ward councillors have reported huge discontent, with 1,200 signatures already gathered on a petition against the changes, mainly from residents in Broadstairs and Palm Bay.
The 33 bus currently runs hourly from Monday to Saturday on a coastal route between Margate and Ramsgate via Broadstairs. The 37 operates a more limited service from Broadstairs to Westwood Cross and Margate, while the 9 goes from Westwood Cross via Broadstairs to Ramsgate, Nethercourt, Cliffsend, Minster and Monkton before continuing to Canterbury. From August 28, it will turn around at Monkton, although the 9X will continue some peak period journeys to Canterbury.
Beacon Road resident Jenny Matterface, who previously represented the ward on the district council, is involved in the petition which has gained more than 1,200 signatures in a week and is supported by current Labour ward councillor Aram Rawf, who has already spoken out on the issue.
Jenny said: “This decision will mean swathes of our elderly and disabled residents are cut off from what makes life worth living. I am getting loads of emails and calls from some very worried people.
“From August 29, residents in Ramsgate and Broadstairs will no longer have a direct bus link to Canterbury outside peak hours. It isn’t clear from the Stagecoach website if the residual route 9 will even serve Broadstairs, so that is important to clarify. This is a bus used by many to get to Westwood Cross as well as Canterbury.
“I have heard some say they may have to change their hours if they can’t get to various workplaces. The main issue for many – and not just the elderly – is that the bus is a more environmentally friendly way to travel than using a car.”
Although bus services are not overseen by district councils, Thanet’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel (OSP) has a special remit to examine issues of concern to the community beyond TDC services and responsibilities, and Labour councillors say they will seek cross-party support to do so on the bus cuts.
Committee member Cllr Heather Keen said: “We want to look in detail at the impact these cuts will have on our local community. There are concerns that people who can’t drive or have limited mobility will be severely affected.
“The way this matter has been approached, with very little warning and no consultation, is completely unacceptable. Stagecoach may be a private company but buses are very much a public service and these routes are vital to many.
“As district councillors part of our role is to listen to residents, speak directly to decision-makers and make sure the public’s voice is heard. We believe this can be done through the council’s scrutiny process, and we hope that Stagecoach will participate, but even if they refuse we can provide a platform for residents, who are able to speak at scrutiny meetings.”
The proposal for a meeting will be put forward at tonight’s OSP meeting, which takes place at the council offices in Cecil Square from 7pm. It is open to the public and available to be viewed online via www.thanet.gov.uk.
The petition will be delivered to Mr Mitchell.