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Maidstone Joint Transportation Board

3rd August 2022

 

URGENT UPDATE: Maidstone Bus Service Changes

 

Decision Making Authority

N /A

Lead Director

Phil Lightowler, Interim Director of Highways and Transport

Lead Head of Service

Phil Lightowler, Head of Public Transport

Lead Officer and Report Author

Steve Pay, Public Transport Planning and Operations Manager

Wards and County Divisions affected

Various

Which Member(s) requested this report?

Councillor Chittenden

 

 

This report makes the following recommendations: for information only

 

 

 

 

 

 

Timetable

Meeting

Date

Maidstone Joint Transportation Board

3 August 2022



URGENT UPDATE: Maidstone Bus Service Changes

 

1.         ORIGIN OF REPORT

 

1.1†††† A Councillor request for a report from KCC identifying changes to the bus network affecting the District. ††

 

2.         PURPOSE OF REPORT AND EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

2.1† †† The report provides the operating and commercial context affecting the bus industry across the UK including; the impact of the pandemic on bus use, skilled driver shortage, increased fuel cost and other overheads and places this in a† local context specifically identifying the impacts on services operating within Maidstone District.†

 

 

 

3.        INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

 

3.1 †††† Background

 

3.1.1  ††The pandemic has had a profound use on Public Transport across the UK.† Since the UK went into lockdown in March 2020, a combination of home working, school closures and guidance to avoid the use of Public Transport has resulted in a volatile period of few passenger journeys and operators and local authorities having to react to Public Health Guidance and changing passenger demands.

 

3.1.2  ††Bus use in Kent, as with rest of the UK has only partially recovered and currently it is estimated that use of buses stands at around 70% of pre-pandemic levels, with the use in the off-peak being closer to half of what it was prior to the pandemic.†† At the same time, bus operators are facing other financial and operational pressures notably in respect of increasing fuel and driver costs and a shortage of skilled drivers and engineering staff.†††

 

3.1.3  †Throughout the pandemic and to date, levels of service are only being sustained because of financial support being provided by Government, currently in the form of Local Transport Fund (LTF) and the continued payment of concessionary travel (the older persons bus pass and KCC Travel Saver) reimbursement assuming pre-pandemic levels of use.†††††

 

3.1.4  ††Concessionary Travel Payments are now being made on a sliding scale reducing them to reflect actual use, thus reducing the income received by operators.†† At the same time LTF finishes at the end September and linked to this, operators have been tasked by the Department for Transport with reviewing their network and reducing it to a sustainable level taking account of all factors, notably† the end of support funding.†

 

Commercial response by operators

 

3.2.1††† Bus services operate in a de-regulated, privatised environment where operators match service levels and fares to demand and costs in order that services are sustainable.† They are not obliged to provide any service or journey empowering them to react to changes to the commercial or operating environment.††

 

3.2.2††† To change or cancel a bus service, operators must follow and administrative (registration) process which gives advance notice to the Department for Transport and to the Local Transport Authority.††† KCC are therefore starting to see the registrations relating to service changes linked the LTF network review which are likely to come into effect around October.† In addition, there are other commercial changes linked to the end of the current school year and likely changes linked to a reduction in KCCís† budget for the support of non commercially viable† buses. A summary of all major changes in the Maidstone District is attached as an appendix.

 

KCC position

 

3.3.1 †† The financial support of bus journey is a discretionary activity and as a consequence, in recent years many Local Transport Authorities have reduced or stopped funding this area.†† KCC has managed to protect its supported bus network and funding during this time but the pressures on the budget mean that the Public Transport team are currently working to deliver a range of savings which include a £2.2m reduction in the supported bus budget.††

 

3.3.2††† Ordinarily, in response to the withdrawal of a service by a bus operator, KCC would consider if funding could be provided to sustain or replace it, if necessary cancelling the funding of something with lesser priority to afford it.†† However, the reduction in the bus budget is such that there is not the capacity to consider this and any arguably less vital services are also already proposed for withdrawal.††

 

3.3.2††† As such, KCC are not able to directly intervene and replace services that are being affected. The Public Transport team are working with operators to identify opportunities for them to provide replacement services and this is arriving at solutions in some instances.†† However, the current climate means that alternative services will not be possible in all instances and †ultimately the majority of service identified for withdrawal will stop without direct replacement.†† KCC are maintaining up to date information about all changes and any alterative solutions on the kent.gov web pages.

 

www.kent.gov.uk/roads-and-travel/travelling-around-kent/bus-travel/bus-services-in-kent

 

 

4†††††† REPORT APPENDICES

 

A.                Summary of Maidstone Service Changes

 

 

5†††††† BACKGROUND PAPERS

 

N/A


Appendix A.† Summary of Maidstone Service Changes

 

 

001

 

Farleigh

 

Peter's Village to Malling School

 

Service withdrawn

 

Jul-22

 

The Nu-Venture service 549 will replace the 001 service

 

4

Arriva

Downswood to Maidstone

The last weekday late afternoon return journey is withdrawn

April 2022

-

5

Arriva

Maidstone to Sandhurst

Withdrawal of the 6:44pm Maidstone to Sandhurst journey and later Monday to Saturday. Day time services are not covered by this contract.

Autumn 2022

-

5A

Hams Travel

Staplehurst to Cranbrook

Service withdrawn

July 2022

Arriva service 5 will provide an alternative solution for residents

13

Nu-Venture

Hollingbourne to Maidstone

Withdrawal of the current Saturday service operating between Hollingbourne and Parkwood (for connections to Maidstone) via Leeds and Langley.

Autumn 22

 

58

Nu-Venture

Addington, Ryarsh, Trottiscliffe, Birling to Maidstone

Withdrawal of the whole Monday to Saturday service.

Autumn 22

 

59

Nu-Venture

Grafty Green, Ulcombe, Kingswood, Chart Sutton to Maidstone

Withdrawal of the whole service which operates Monday to Saturday between Grafty Green and Parkwood (for connections to Maidstone).

Service 89 school journeys from the same area are not covered by this contract.

Autumn 22

 

71A

Arriva

New Hythe to Maidstone

Service withdrawn

April 2022

 

155

Arriva

Maidstone to Chatham

Kent section of the route leaving Monday to Saturday daytime service for Wouldham, Burham, Eccles and Aylesford withdrawn.

April 2022

A new Nu-Venture 29 service will provide a 2 day a week shopper service

 

Pupils attending Maidstone schools can take a new 529 service.

 

Pupils attending Rochester schools can take the new 638 service, which runs from Wouldham to Peterís Village.

332

Chalkwell

Stockbury, Yelsted to Sittingbourne Schools

Withdrawal of school day only service to Sittingbourne Schools

Autumn 2022

-

558

Nu-Venture

Addington to Maidstone Schools

Service Withdrawn (expected commercial bus changes)

Autumn 2022

-

Detling Shopper

Compaid

Detling to Maidstone

Withdrawal of Monday to Friday shopper bus from Detling Village to Maidstone

August 2022

-

L1

Starline

Kingswood to Lenham

Service withdrawn

July 2022

Changes to L2 and L3 services will provide an alternative

X1 / X2

Arriva

Kings Hill to Maidstone

Withdrawal of the Monday to Friday service linking Kings Hill with Maidstone and West Malling Station, including the link to Maidstone schools

Autumn 2022

-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††