The East of Maidstone Bus Group which is made up of representatives from local Parish Councils has expressed concerns about planned changes to local services including the number 13 from Hollingbourne to Maidstone which will terminate at Morrisons Supermarket on the Sutton Road from next June. At Morrisons travellers into Maidstone will be able to wait for another bus into Maidstone and the journey from Hollingbourne to Maidstone is expected to take around 50 minutes. If the two hourly service went direct the Maidstone the speed of the 5 mile journey would equate to 6 mph. The present service is operated by Nu Venture from Monday to Friday and Arriva on Saturdays with no Sunday services and is supported by Kent County Council.
The current service is a lifeline to many residents without cars who need to get to the shops and elsewhere. Over the last 35 years Hollingbourne has lost two village shops, two antique shops, a Post Office and tobacconists, a hairdressers, a greengrocer, a meat shop, a doctor’s surgery, a car mechanic, and a Police House cum part time Police Station. Older residents can remember other shops including a café, a watch repairer, a tailor, and a baker amongst other businesses. Apart from three public houses there is one small village shop and a barbers with the result that most residents have to travel at least three miles to the nearest supermarket and further for other items. This means that accessible and economical public transport is essential especially as the rapid growth of housing developments around Maidstone has caused roads to be often congested with cars while buses take up less road space per traveller.
Also over the last three decades Hollingbourne Station has ceased to be manned and fares have risen by more than the rate of inflation which has not helped to keep public transport affordable . Up to about 30 years ago the Station had a waiting room with an open fire in the winter and toilets. The station, which is now busier than ever, is today partly used as a photographic studio.
A number of concerns about the future of local bus services were raised at the November meeting of Hollingbourne Parish Council.
Mr Mike Fitzgerald MBE, Chairman of the East of Maidstone has published the following letter to Kent County Council Working Party on bus services. Hollingbourne Station is mentioned as well as the number 13 service.
East of Maidstone Transport Group
29th November 2018
Dear Working Party
Further to the Bus Conversation Working Group Meeting on Monday 19th November we agreed to collate Member/Parishes responses and submit to you by your deadline Friday 30th November.
(This only allowed 10 days to respond with no opportunity to consult our Parish Councils or community.) The documents where only laid on the table at the meeting and therefore there was no opportunity for any in depth consideration.
All those present have responded as requested and their bullet point responses are as follows, these duplicate some of those raised at our meeting but are repeated here to keep them all together and we ask you to see what action can be taken to address the points made.
The major concern was that this is only the re-jigging of the of the current service routes 59 and 13 with an interchange that does add extra journeys but does nothing to attract new users while lengthening journey times.
A pilot scheme or a pilot project is one which is used to test an idea before deciding whether to introduce it on a larger scale or replicated elsewhere .
This is not a pilot and it mixes up, Commercial and Supported services, which makes it difficult to see how you go to tender and it raises question about what happens when it comes to an end .
It is seen as dabbling with the service and offering no innovation or fresh thinking to grow a new rural bus service that is sustainable and worthy of replication.
Other Issues that were raised, in no particular order, as received are as follows.
• Can we review safety at Warmlake as people will want to interchange buses here?
• When returning from Maidstone to Morrisons Interchange how will the connections times be managed. Delays frequently occur out of Maidstone when a wait for the bus connection would be excessive.
• Does the new timing on the 59 route really deliver anything new, really only one OR 2 practical journeys.
• No innovation and not timed to make best use of facilities at intermediate stops.
• No deviation to existing routes. No innovation ( the 59 could go across at the Plough- stop through Langley village and the Potting Shed and back to A274.)
• They say they respect local knowledge but are they really listening.
• By simply keeping the same routes and stopping them at the interchange then you increase journey times significantly particularly on the bus back from Maidstone.
• Where is the turning point at the interchange
• Who is in control of the pilot if is joins up the Commercial and Supported provision, how can we have any influence?
• No new journey opportunities so it the same service journey but an inferior service.
• Can we include Hollingbourne Station?
• We do not see the school service which we have been asking to be reviewed as any part of the pilot .
• Including the school service only complicate the process and provides inflexibility to build a true pilot.
We look forward to meeting you on the 10th December.
Chairman: Mike FitzGerald MBE
11 Laxton Drive Chart Sutton Kent ME17 3SQ
Telephone 01622 743270
Mr Fitzgerald is a former Mayor of Maidstone and a picture of him appears below (top) while a picture of the proposed feeder routes from June 2019 appears below (bottom).