Demonstration held to protest over cuts to Stagecoach bus services in Thanet

Protest against bus cuts Photo Karen Constantine

A protest over planned cuts to Stagecoach bus services in Thanet has been held outside the company’s depot in Westwood today (August 16).

Around 70 people including county and district councillors and residents turned out to demonstrate against the changes at the protest organised by Unite the Union Retired Members and Unite Community.

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.

Photo Jack Packman

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

Find the full list of changes here

Beacon Road resident Jenny Matterface, who previously represented the ward on the district council, is involved in a petition against the reductions which has gained more than 2,660 signatures.

Protesters including Jenny Matterface (centre) Photo Jack Packman

She said: “A good turnout from across the community protested outside the Westwood Bus Depot against the drastic cuts proposed by Stagecoach.

“The demonstration was organised by Unite the Union Retired and Unite Community members and was attended by county and district councillors and many residents impacted by the cuts.

“One person told us ‘If these cuts go ahead I will find it difficult to get to Canterbury for hospital appointments’. Another protestor said she would become isolated and unable to go shopping easily, visit friends and generally be part of the community.”

Cllr Ruth Bailey (left) and Greens Tricia Austin, Becky Wing and Cllr Abi Smith with resident Jessica Lauren Photo Jack Packman

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.

She also attended the protest today and said: “I attended the Stagecoach bus cut protest this morning because I firmly believe that bus services should be more than just a business.. Buses by their nature are a public transport service, a vital provision which links people and communities to shops, jobs, medical services, families and social events.

Photo Karen Constantine

“The buses due to be axed serve our residential streets and, from testimonials I have received, these cuts will affect not just the elderly but a much wider, cross section of the community. At a time when we should be encouraging more people onto public transport to reduce single journeys and cut emissions it seems a nonsense that bus routes are being cut.

Photo Karen Constantine

“The local transport authority, via the government, should be looking to the future and providing subsidies for any potential loss making routes.

“I have been writing to Joel Mitchell, the MD of Stagecoach SE, as well as to Craig Mackinlay MP. I also sent Mr Mitchell more than 30 personal and poignant accounts outlining the impact these proposed bus cuts will have on individual passengers. I called for a public meeting and put forward alternative suggestions in a bid to save the doomed routes but unfortunately all to no avail.

“The last I heard from Mr Mitchell he said he was having last minute discussions with KCC. With the cuts due to take effect in less than two weeks, we really need to be hearing something very soon and I really hope that it will be positive news.”

Cllr Constantine and protesters

Fellow Broadstairs councillor Aram Rawf has also written to Stagecoach MD Joel Mitchell. A reply from Mr Mitchell to Cllr Rawf said: “It’s such an incredibly difficult time at the moment. I am so upset at having to make cuts. This isn’t why I joined the industry, completely the opposite in fact.

“The challenge is that costs are up hugely as the cost of living continues to shoot up, while passenger numbers have fallen significantly since covid. Government funding is ending and local authorities are under their own cost challenges.

“I’m not trying to make money, but my statutory duties mean I need to make sure the business doesn’t run at a loss at the very least, which we try and rebuild for the future.

Photo Jack Packman

There are many routes that don’t cover their costs, and I have no choice but to review what we operate so we can build a sustainable baseline for the future.

“We’re here to serve people and I am determined to grow again, but have to be able to create foundations to be able to do that.”

The petition is now closed and due to be sent to Joel Mitchell at Stagecoach.


  1. If people actually used the buses there would be no need to cut the service. It’s the same as people who last drank a half in their local in 1987 getting uppity when it closes down.

    • The big difference between the two is that some people rely on buses to get to doctors surgeries, hospital appointments, etc.

      Perhaps we should build on parks if not enough kids play in them?

      • Once again, I see myself agreeing with Mr Checksfield.
        Some people have no option other than to use the bus, if they want to go shopping, visit the library, dentist or doctor. Without their local bus service, they would be marooned.

    • I have just got the 33 into Broadstairs and it was three-quarters full. Got the Loop home and that was very busy so people do use buses and many rely on them.

  2. The number 37 not only goes to Westwood Cross, but also to QEQM and St. Peter’s Surgery, so is vital for the elderly and those who don’t drive. It also needs to be more frequent and publicised.

  3. Kent County Council has a statutory duty to support ‘socially necessary’ bus services. These routes have significant usage for vital journeys and whilst they may not be commercially viable they are socially necessary. The silence from KCC is deafening!

  4. These routes all serve communities that will have no alternative form of transport if the routes are cut. It’s not just hospital appointments that will be affected but students going to colleges in Canterbury who will find it difficult to attend. We have residents who work out of area who may have to change jobs or their hours. Elderly residents who will be stuck at home if they can afford taxis etc.

    • So agree with your comments Jenny, sorry was unable to attend demo, but did post out to friends and clubs to rally support. WELL DONE to you and all who showed support to one another.

  5. As always in these ‘debates’ facts and reality are far apart. I find it amusing that the people in this demo are the very people suffering from the strikes being imposed by their mates in the unions who are supposed to protect the socialist workers. And knowone had given any facts on the usage of these services which are to be cancelled. I use the loop every day but find it dreadfully unreliable. Did it not used to be every 7 mins? I don’t mind the frequency as long as I can
    Without facts how can anyone base their cases on heersay. Looks to me like the facts are being purposefully hidden by both KCC and Stagecoach
    And where is Carpenter with her banner,,,,?

    • The Loop isn’t under threat although late night services seem to have already been cancelled. The routes we were protesting about serve whole communities where there is no alternative.

      KCC has no involvement with these proposed cuts other than saying they won’t be able to subsidise any alternative provider.

      • All county councils were charged by government with carrying out bus network reviews in conjunction with bus operators to devise a new commercial bus network to operate after government post Covid support runs out at the beginning of October. As such they must have known about these upcoming cuts by the end of June.

        • The consultation by KCC is a separate issue to the cuts here. These cuts are proposed by Stagecoach whereas the KCC consultation was about the removal of subsidies from routes outside Thanet.Separate topic.

          • Yes I know about the recent KCC bus support reduction from £6.6m to £4.4m which luckily didn’t affect Thanet. As I said this is Stagecoach’s new commercial network planned in conjunction with KCC. In other words KCC was aware this was going to happen and has chosen not to step in to support the threatened services. In Surrey the county council has made extra support available for buses using the ‘headroom’ in its concessionary fare budget which is there because fewer free pass journeys are currently being made.

  6. as thanet seems to be home to the national collection of mobility scooters i didnt think buses would be a priority for some ?

  7. I am a regular user of buses as I don’t drive. The bus is my saviour it takes me to the shops local as well as further afield. It enables me to attend appointments Dr hospital dentist and hair dresser. It enables me to visit my very poorly husband when he is an inpatient collect his medication from viking day unit I can meet my grandchildren for a breakfast and shopping.
    All of which maintains my mental health and gives me independence this is just a small idea of some of my reasons for my bus. I live in an area that will be bereft of a bus the 37 and 9 .
    What about our towns we will not be able to support our local shops or tourism without adequate transport.
    Let’s have some commonsense here please

  8. Those who quote Bitcoins and art galleries are not the 19% who have no access to a car.The facts are Stagecoach cannot attract sufficient drivers, the bus fleet is aging, and in some network areas the buses are of scrapyard quality. Central govt support for buses is much less than was promised at under £1bn instead of £3bn.
    Even a poorly financed bus service is more economically efficient than the levels of congestion seen on our roads each and everyday.
    RTA rates are on the rise and as more inefficient and badly maintained cars join the traffic flow, more accidents and congestion/pollution will follow.
    KCC has been granted in principle £35.1m to improve bus services, but has not yet told the public how it will be spent. Rumour has it that Grant Shapps intends to announce a national £2 limit on bus fares, but that will only work if there are bus services to receive the £2 largesse.
    I do sympathise with Joel Mitchell of Stagecoach, but simply lopping services with no thought for the impact on the community,the resilience and integrity of the bus network,or the economics of the business, makes no sense.
    Prior to the 1985 Transport Act, Mr Mitchell would have applied to the traffic commissioners to cut the services.This meant that he had to sit down and consult with community representatives, but as always, decisions are now made without reference to anyone, and it is a fait accompli.
    The same also applies to KCC and its decision making.
    Like so much that is done in a hurry today, we will regret doing so, tomorrow.

  9. Why protest at Westwood when the head-office is at Canterbury? However, it also apparent that the local independent companies (ie Regent and the like) are not rushing to take on the services. These losses in Thanet are nothing compared to the rest of the county where the subsidy has been cut by KCC. Interesting to note that they cannot subsidise local buses, but they can give themselves a massive increase in expenses as per last year.

  10. Take away their buses, give zero road tax to the £50k electric cars for the rich – ‘Let them eat cake’

  11. The bus service is not a privilege, it’s a public service and in my opinion it does not matter a jot how many actually use it ,it is there for those that do need it.

  12. I agree that buses(and trains) are a public service. To be retained regardless of usage.
    I am happy to pay taxes to make sure there is an emergency ambulance available to whisk me to hospital should I ever need it. And I don’t mind if other people get to use one when I don’t actually need it. In fact, I would be delighted if ambulances and fire engines ended up sitting in the depot or cruising the streets, looking in vain for business. But I want them available when needed.
    As I get older, I use both trains and buses more and more. Though I have a car at home, I want the opportunity to travel without the stress of actually driving. But that doesn’t mean that I will use the buses every day!!

  13. It’s odd that Broadstairs & Ramsgate are set to lose direct bus () to Canterbury but Margate to Canterbury (on route 8) isn’t changed. It’s going to force people onto the trains.

  14. With route 33 being withdrawn Kingsgate will have no bus service on weekdays but strangely will continue to have an hourly service on Sundays provided by route 8X. Such is the odd world of privatised & deregulated bus operation in the UK that a situation like this can happen. It used to be run as public service.

  15. At school times in Broadstairs you can wait as long as 45 mins for a loop ( a service which is supposed to be every 7-9 mins. ) The loss of the 33, 9 and 37 will only add to this. When the bus does eventually arrive it is packed to the hilt. With loads standing there is enough people for another bus! Now there will be even more people trying to get on already packed buses. Have school services for school children so the general public can get on a bus!

    • There are designated school buses and they are full .
      At end of day the kids pay for travel so they have a right to travel as much as everyone else .

    • There are designated school services which are full .
      The kids pay fares too so have the right to travel as much as everyone else .

  16. Get rid of bus routes, people should learn to walk again, trains should be driverless and 20 mph is to slow

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