Last year Hollingbourne Parish Council successfully campaigned to have schoolchildren who use the Stagecoach 10X bus service to get to Maidstone in the mornings to be picked up from the Ashford bound bus stop at Hollingbourne Corner on the A20. This arrangement started last December with the intention of reducing the risk to children crossing the A20 dual carriageway at during the morning rush hour. The campaign was supported by KCC Councillor Jenny Whittle. KCC have now advised Parish Clerk, Vicki Smith that Stagecoach now wishes to end the arrangement as from September 2017.
Anecdotal evidence collected from some of the children by parents suggests that the bus does not always call on the Ashford side of the A20 with the result that many children cross the busy A20 by Junction 8 of the M20 in order to be sure of getting to school.
Hollingbourne parish Council welcomes comments on this issue.
The text of the letter from KCC to the Parish Clerk is as follows:-
Dear Mrs Smith
I write to you in your capacity as the Clerk for Hollingbourne Parish Council and need to advise you of a change regarding bus service 10X which operates between Ashford and Maidstone serving Hollingbourne at the A20
Bus Service 10X is provided by Stagecoach on what we call a commercial basis as it operates outside of a contractual relationship with KCC. It operates between Ashford and Maidstone. Such services are registered with the Department for Transport and KCC has no regulatory role in the licensing of them and operators are therefore able to set routes, fares, timetables etc as they see fit without the need for approval from us. However, we do use our relationships with operators to work with them on initiatives and to fix problems etc.
You are probably aware that Some months ago, following representations made by Hollingbourne Parish and Cllr. Jenny Whittle, Stagecoach agreed to make some changes to service 10X which was intended to enable children travelling to Maidstone schools to board the bus at the stop on the Hollingbourne side of the carriageway as opposed to access the service at the stop located near the Mecure Hotel. On schooldays in the morning, the service has been double running around the A20 roundabouts to enable it to serve the stop on the Hollingbourne side of the carriageway for use by children coming down from the village. The manoeuvre is not ideal as it involved additional running time and need to get across a lane of traffic into the right hand lane to navigate back round the roundabout and onto Maidstone. Stagecoach have been willingly completing this but recently advised that children are not making use of the new arrangement and continue to cross the A20 to the stop which is more obviously that intended for Maidstone bound passengers. As a consequence they can no longer justify the continuation of the arrangement and have identified their intention to revert to the previous pattern of service and remove this extra procedure. The normal notice period for such changes is 56 days which is the minimum time that an operator is required to provide the Department for Transport so I would expect that this change would come into effect with the return of schools in September following the summer holiday period. .
Whilst, as explained, I am unable to directly influence this course of events, do please let me know if you have any further questions.
Steve Pay | Planning and Operations Manager | Public Transport | Aylesford Highways Depot | Kent County Council | St Michaels Close, Aylesford, ME20 7TZ | | www.kent.gov.uk
Pictured below is the dual carriageway section of the A20 which must be crossed by children going to Maidstone schools. The Maidstone bus stop is behind the central reservation hedge which partially obscures pedestrians from drivers coming up from Ashford. The line of traffic in the picture almost certainly includes traffic that comes off the M20 in a constant stream. The Ashford bound bus stop which has been used for Maidstone bound travellers is behind the the bush to the the left of the blue lorry. Obtaining a picture from the centre of the Hollingbourne Corner roundabout which would show both bus stops was deemed too dangerous.