A demonstration protesting at cuts to bus services in Thanet will be held outside the Stagecoach depot at Westwood on Tuesday (August 16).
There is rising local anger about the axing of Stagecoach routes 33 and 37 and the truncation of route 9 from the end of August.
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.
There are a number of other bus route changes that will also take effect from August 28
Unite the Union Retired Members will be outside the Stagecoach bus depot on Margate Road, on public land, on Tuesday from 10.30am to 12.30pm to highlight the impact the cuts will have on people in Thanet and especially Broadstairs and St. Peter’s where large areas will have no bus service if the cuts go ahead.
An online petition has nearly 2500 signatures and paper copies have already collected hundreds of names from those without access to the internet.
Beacon Road resident Jenny Matterface, who previously represented the ward on the district council, is involved in the petition which has gained more than 2,500 signatures.
She said: “The cuts will mean many who currently live independently will find themselves unable to get out and about unless they can afford taxis. ‘Do they expect us to stay home until we die?’ was one quote from an elderly resident.”
The cut to the number 9 route between Monkton and Canterbury is also a huge blow to Monkton Nature Reserve and those who would like to visit but do not drive.
Dr Clive Nuttman, who is adviser to the Trustees at Thanet Countryside Trust which manages the reserve, said: “Details of the recent reduction in bus services by Stagecoach have been met with dismay at Monkton Nature Reserve.
“The loss of the number 9 route between Monkton and Canterbury is a blow to visitors and volunteers alike.
“The loss of buses to the request stop at the reserve entrance means that volunteers face the prospect of a 15-minute walk on unpedestrianised roads to reach the reserve.
“The already dangerous A253 from Willett’s Hill represents a difficult prospect for pedestrians.
“This news could not have come at a worse time for the trust; outreach efforts towards residents of Thanet who lack good access to green spaces have included partnering with schools to encourage families to visit the reserve by bus and schemes had been set up with Cliftonville Primary School and Forelands Field School.
“We had started to receive visits from families to see where their children enjoy outdoor learning during term time and the impending loss of the bus service is a blow to our community work.”
Independent Broadstairs councillor Ruth Bailey has written to Stagecoach and South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay with accounts from residents who will suffer due to the cut in services.
In response Stagecoach MD Joel Mitchell told her “last minute discussions” are taking place with Kent County Council about the services.
Broadstairs and St Peter’s Town Council says it is committed to supporting existing bus routes and is disappointed at the planned cuts.
Cllr Bob Bayford, Chairman of the Environment Sub-committee says, “There appears to have been no consultation about these changes or recognition of the consequences for local people.
“They leave large areas of Broadstairs with no local bus service and expecting everyone, particularly those with mobility issues, to be able to access the Loop bus service is just not practical.
“The move is counterproductive and flies in the face of the carbon emissions targets we have set as a nation. The Town Council takes the issue of climate change and the journey to net zero very seriously and is disappointed by these latest developments.”
The Town Council has raised its concerns with Stagecoach and Craig Mackinlay MP.
Joel 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.
“We remain absolutely committed to working with our local authority partners, as well as other stakeholders, to deliver the best bus networks we can for local communities. Looking ahead, our aim is to grow the network by encouraging more people to switch from car to bus, benefitting our economy, the health and well-being of citizens and our environment.”
The petition will be delivered to Mr Mitchell.