Bus passengers are being asked for their views on changes to 17 services designed to protect journeys as spending on subsidies is reduced.
Kent County Council currently spends £6.4million on subsidising 150 contracts across the county.
It has already saved more than £1 million from its bus subsidy budget by renegotiating better contracts with bus companies – providing better value for Kent’s taxpayers – without any noticeable impact on passengers.
The council is now looking to make further savings of £500,000 but plans to do so with a minimum impact on bus users by working closely with bus operators.
For full details, visit: www.kent.gov.uk/busreview
Matthew Balfour, Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said: “Over the past five years council budgets have come under increasing pressure as central Government has reduced its funding to the county council year on year.
“We have already had to reduce our revenue expenditure by £433 million since the start of 2011-12 and the budget for 2016-17 requires a further £80.8million of savings.
“Savings made to date have focussed on how we work and on reducing spending across services provided by Kent County Council. We have reduced these budgets as much as we can in many instances.
“The budget for the support of public bus services is part way through a two-year programme, which is seeking to reduce expenditure on this area by £2million from £7.6million to £5.6million.
“We have already made over £1 million of savings by working with bus operators to re-plan routes and through a greater use of Community Transport operators.
“We have made these changes without any noticeable impact on bus passengers. Also, we have recently identified a further £250,000 worth of savings but we still need to reduce our spending by a further £500,000 in the next financial year.
“We will continue to work with bus operators to explore more imaginative options for service provision and look for new sources of funding, but it is likely that some services and journeys at certain times and on certain days will change or have to be reduced.
“A series of changes have been identified for around 17 services and as there will be some implications for passengers we are completing a full public consultation on them.”
The consultation will run from 21 March to 15 May.
People are being asked to respond by visiting www.kent.gov.uk/busreview and completing the online consultation questionnaire.
The consultation document and questionnaire are also available in Easy Read and Word formats on the website (above) or on request by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 03000 421553; Text Relay: 18001 03000 421553 (this number goes to an answering machine, which is monitored during office hours).
For any other formats people can also use the details above.
Note, you will need to login and create an account to take part in the consultation.
|Service No.||Route||Summary of proposed change||Equality Impact Assessment||Timetable||Additional Information|
|2||Ashford to Rolvenden||The 22:05 Ashford to Rolvenden and 22:49 Rolvenden to Ashford journeys will no longer run. The other journeys will not be funded by KCC but will continue to be provided by Stagecoach without subsidy.||Click here for PDF version|
|89||Maidstone to Coxheath||Evening journeys will be withdrawn. The route will be replaced by evening journeys on service 5, which will divert to serve Coxheath providing a similar level of service.|
|5||Maidstone to Hawkhurst||This service will divert via Coxheath in the evenings to provide a replacement to cover the withdrawal of service 89 (above).|
|89||Dover to Folkestone||The 19:43 and 21:57 from Dover and 22:27 from Elvington will no longer run. The other journeys will not be funded by KCC but will continue to be provided by Stagecoach without subsidy.|
|102||Dover to Lydd||The 20:35 journey from Dover will run as far as New Romney. The current 22:06 from Lydd will start from New Romney at 21:48. The 21:06 journey from Lydd will terminate at Folkestone. The 22:40 and 23:35 journeys from Dover to Folkestone will be replaced by a journey at 23:05. The 22:05 and 23:05 journeys from Folkestone to Dover will be replaced by a journey at 22:35.|
|123||Kings Hill to West Malling Station||Service 123 will be withdrawn. Instead a new X1 service will be introduced which will operate between Kings Hill and Maidstone via West Malling Station, which alongside other existing services will provide similar links.|
|203||Benover to Paddock Wood||The service will no longer run on Mondays. The Wednesday service would continue unchanged.|
|204||Tonbridge to Underriver||The service will no longer run on Wednesdays. The rest of the service continues unchanged on all other days.|
|205||Tonbridge to Paddock Wood||KCC will no longer fund this service. Autocar will provide a reduced level of service without subsidy from KCC.|
|402||Tonbridge to Hildenborough||This journey will be withdrawn.|
|217||Trench Wood to Ramslye via Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells||The Tunbridge Wells to Ramslye section will be withdrawn but will be covered with existing service 28. Other journeys will not be funded by KCC but will continue to be operated by Arriva without subsidy.||Click here for existing service 28 Timetable
|477||Swanley to Dartford||The morning journey and some evening services will continue to operate without subsidy but the evening service will finish at 21:00 on Mondays to Fridays and 22:00 on Saturdays. The evening service from Swanley to Orpington will stop entirely.||Click here for PDF version|
|12RL||Tenterden to Headcorn Railway Station||This service will be withdrawn. KCC are arranging for Arriva to make changes to the timetable for the existing number 12 service, which will provide cover for some 12RL journeys.||Click here for existing service 12 Timetable
|14A||Canterbury to Deal||The existing 22:00 journey from Canterbury will run at 22:35. The 22:50 from Canterbury and 23:30 from Sandwich will no longer run. Other journeys will continue to be operated by Stagecoach without subsidy.|
|15 / 15A||Dover to Sandown||The 17:47 and 18:56 from Deal to Sandown and the 17:54 and 19:03 from Sandown as far as Deal will stop entirely and will not extend to Sandown after 16:55. Other journeys will continue to be operated by Stagecoach.|
|3 / 3B||Canterbury to Faversham||The service will continue to be operated by Stagecoach without subsidy but will finish after 21:00.|
|541 / 542 / 544||Elvington to Dover, Walmer to Sandwich, Walmer to Canterbury||The service will be reduced to operate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays only.|
- Why are you doing this?
The funding being made available for local authorities from Central Government is decreasing as part of national austerity measures.
This is placing huge financial pressure on the Council to significantly reduce its spending.
Therefore, all Council budgets are being reviewed and many are being reduced to help the Council make the necessary savings.
The budget that pays for these bus services is being reduced by £2m over 3 years, from April 2014 to April 2017.
- Can you do this?
Yes. Although it is understood that all bus services are important to the passengers that use them, these services are what we call a discretionary activity.
This means the Council is not obliged to provide these services and is able to determine how much money it spends supporting public buses services. We will still spend around £5.5m a year on supporting bus services.
3. Why have you chosen the services you have?
At the moment, no final decisions regarding which services will have to change have been made.
Initially, we have identified the services that may be affected because operators have indicated that they can continue to run a level of service without the Council’s money or because they operate in areas where other bus services will continue to operate on different days of the week, or at different times of the day.
We have done this because we believe these changes will have less impact on passengers than if we were to remove funding for services that would stop completely and were the only means of public transport for passengers to get to work or to school etc.
- Why are other services not included?
Bus services across the UK were privatised in 1985. Since then, the majority of bus services in Kent have been run by commercial bus companies, such as Arriva or Stagecoach.
They are not paid for by the Council, therefore, including these would not save any money.
The Council’s Kent Karrier (Dial-a-Ride services) is also not included in this consultation as they provide the only way for members of the scheme to travel.
- Will services that are not included in this consultation be affected?
Not if they are paid for by KCC. At the moment, we are only considering changing the services identified in this review.
There is a chance that operators will need to make minor changes to the services they provide if, for example, they use the same vehicle but that is outside of our control.
- Are School buses affected?
No. The Council will not include journeys or services to and from school as part of this review.
- Are bus operators involved?
Yes. KCC has a close relationship with all of its operators and has been working with them to identify opportunities to save money.
This has already saved the Council around £5m over the last few years.
However, the changes being proposed through this consultation are because of the Council’s funding pressures not because of anything that operators have done.
- Do KCC control all bus services?
No. The bus network in the United Kingdom is deregulated (privatised) and the majority of services are provided by bus operators outside of any contract or control of the Council.
The licensing of operators and their services is a function of the Department for Transport and KCC cannot control who does or doesn’t have a license and what services any operator runs.
- How much does KCC spend on buses?
In the financial year 2015 / 16, KCC will have spent around £6.4m on subsidies for socially necessary bus services. This figure is set to reduce to just over £5.5m from April 2017.
KCC also has to pay bus operators for accepting bus passes for elderly passengers and school children, which means the total amount the Council spends with bus operators is over £30m every year.
- How many services do KCC look after?
KCC currently have around 150 contracts with operators to provide bus services or certain journeys. This means that less than 3% of all journeys that operate get some funding from the Council.
- Who will make these decisions and who will decide the final range of savings measures?
Ultimately decisions will be made by the Council’s Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee, which is made up of elected Members.
They will be informed by senior officers from KCC’s Public Transport department who will use information gained from the public consultation, Equality Impact Assessment, bus inspections and information from bus operators to make recommendations.
- When will services change?
Once decisions have been made, the Council has to give notice to its bus operators.
This means that services will likely change in August 2016.
- Will you provide replacements for the services affected?
The Council has been working with operators to provide replacements where possible for the services affected. In some instances journeys will continue to run even though we have reduced the funding.
Where this is the case, this is reflected in the proposed changes set out in the consultation document.
We will look to develop our Kent Karrier services and work with the voluntary and community sector to provide other forms of transport but we are not expecting to be able to provide replacement bus services.
- Am I entitled to a refund on a pass bought from KCC?
Fees only apply to school travel passes (the Young Person’s Travel Pass and Kent 16+ Travel Card) so this shouldn’t be necessary.
If you have bought a pass and the service that you use changes, then we will consider all refund requests on a case by case basis.
- How can I give you my views?
The best way to influence the outcome is by responding to the consultation.
By telling us how you might be impacted, you can ensure that we consider this as part of our decision making process.
- Where do I respond to the consultation?
By visiting www.kent.gov.uk/busreview and completing the online consultation questionnaire.
Alternatively, complete the consultation questionnaire in the consultation document and return to: Freepost, KENT COUNTY COUNCIL BUS FUNDING REVIEW
- How do I complain?
If you are not happy with the outcome of the consultation, KCC has a complaints process.
You may write to a Corporate Director or your locally elected Member who will take up the complaint on your behalf.
If you’re still not happy and think your comments have not been dealt with properly then you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.
More details are available at; http://www.lgo.org.uk/making-a-complaint and http://www.kent.gov.uk/about-the-council/contact-us/complaints-and-feedback