The number 7 bus, which runs from Canterbury to Herne Bay Railway Station via Broad Oak, Hoath, Reculver, Hillborough and Beltinge, is being cancelled. Many people, the young, the poor, and the elderly in particular, are dependent upon this bus. If the bus is cancelled many vulnerable people will find themselves isolated, unable to access the shops or meet vital appointments in the city.
The service is already sparse. There are seven buses a day, one an hour from 9.35 in the morning till 13.35, and then just two more: at 16.15 and 17.40. The 16.15 is full of school children and the 17.40 with people coming home from work. Otherwise it is mainly old age pensioners who use the bus. It is particularly useful for the residents of the two Park Home estates in Broad Oak, Dengrove Park and Bluebell Woods, who either catch the bus into Canterbury for a day out in the city, or who use it for shopping in Sturry Road. There is just enough time between buses to do your shopping and have a cup of coffee, before catching the next bus home. It is also used by people from Reculver, Hillborough and Beltinge to get into Herne Bay.
There are very few people who take the whole journey from Canterbury to Herne Bay. This is a pity, as the bus ambles its way through some lovely Kent countryside, along country lanes, passed historic cottages and manors and through picturesque villages. It’s true that it is probably an over large bus for the size of the roads it travels, and that traffic has to move over to the verge in many places to let it past, but this only adds to the charm of the journey. Usually it is a single decker, but upstairs on the occasional double decker allows for some wide views of the countryside around. I would certainly recommend the journey at least once before the bus is removed from service. This is due to happen in June 2022
This is not the only bus that is being cancelled. The bus service during school times to Spires Academy is also being cut, as are a number of other school buses. Anyone who has stood waiting for a bus in the Canterbury area will know that many buses are arbitrarily cancelled without warning and that it is not unusual to have to wait for over an hour for a bus after 6pm. There is a shortage of bus drivers, who have had enough of the poor rates of pay and are looking for jobs elsewhere.
Here is the full list of services that are going to be cut from June 5th:
Route X4 (Maidstone, Sittingbourne, Faversham, Canterbury)
Route 3B (Faversham and Kiln Court)
Route 7 (Herne Bay to/from Hillborough, Hoath, Broad Oak and Canterbury)
Route 22A/25A (evening service to/from Barton Estate)
Route 27 (Rough Common to/from Canterbury)
From the same date, the following school-time services will also be cut:
Route 901 (Herne Bay, Broomfield, Beltinge, Chestfield, Tyler Hill to/from Archbishops School)
Route 920 (return service from Canterbury Academy to Sturry and Broad Oak)
Route 921 (Herne Bay, Beltinge, Hillborough, Broomfield, Herne, Broad Oak, Sturry to/from Spires Academy)
Route 922 (Whitstable, Tankerton, Greenhill, Tyler Hill, Hales Place, Sturry to/from Spires Academy).
Meanwhile Stagecoach, who run the services around Canterbury, saw profits soar by 104.3 percent in the half year to 30th October 2021, going from £16.1 million to £32.9 million. Earnings per share went up from 0.1p to 2.7p, while revenues rose from £454.6 million to £579.4 million, with journeys and commercial sales going up 70 and 80 per cent of 2019 levels respectively.
Chief executive Martin Griffiths said: “We are pleased at the positive progress of the business as confidence in public transport returns and more customers use our bus, coach and tram services. While the pace of recovery may vary, we are well-placed to deliver on the extensive opportunities beyond the pandemic and on the back of the COP26 climate change conference to attract people out of cars to more sustainable public transport.”
Martin Griffiths was paid £949,000 p.a. as of April 2022.
This is a small minded and petty decision made by a company rich in revenues. The school buses are usually full and keep traffic off the road. In this age of climate change we should be encouraging people to leave their cars at home and to travel by public transport instead. The number 7, meanwhile, is a vital service, used by some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
When Margaret Thatcher privatised the buses in 1985 she assured us it would mean “lower fares, new services, and more passengers”. In fact the opposite has happened. Fares are rising exponentially, services are being cut and passenger numbers are falling, with more and more people being forced to take to their cars. We thought we were getting competition. Instead what we have is a set of privatised monopolies, with the same bus companies running services around the country. Stagecoach alone has bus routes serving more than 100 towns and cities. Everywhere you go in the UK, from the North of Scotland, to the far South West, you will see the Stagecoach livery on passing vehicles.
More than 3,000 local-authority-supported routes have been cut or reduced in the past 20 years in England, fares are up by 403%, and passenger numbers have sunk by 38%. As Bassam Khawaja says: “Bus services are fragmented, with multiple operators running uncoordinated routes, each with their own tickets, schedules and maps. Passengers complain of unreliable service and poor coverage.”
The system has also turned out to be expensive. Unlike publicly owned companies, which reinvest profits and use profitable routes to subsidise unprofitable ones, private companies extract money as shareholder dividends, while still expecting the public to subsidise them. Taxpayer money accounts for 42% of funding for bus services in England outside London, and hundreds of millions of pounds had to be allocated to support services during the pandemic.
If you would like to object to these cuts please write to Matthew Arnold, The Bus Station, St Georges Lane, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 2SY.
Or contact Stagecoach at: https://www.stagecoachbus.com/regional-help-and-contact/south-east
Or email them at: email@example.com
You can contact Kent County Council online here, or write to them at:
Kent ME14 1XQ
Here is a list of your councillors by ward: https://democracy.canterbury.gov.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?VW=TABLE&PIC=1&FN=WARD
sign the petition here:
The more people who write or sign the petition, the more likely it is we can save this vital service.
About CJ Stone
CJ Stone is an author, columnist and feature writer. He has written seven books, and columns and articles for many newspapers and magazines.
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