Call for action after Tonbridge school bus is cancelled due to ‘low usage’

Call for action after Tonbridge school bus is cancelled due to ‘low usage’

by Andy Tong | 18th October 2018

TIMETABLE changes made by Arriva have led to confusion among parents over the cancellation of a school bus from Hildenborough to Weald of Kent Grammar School on Tudeley Lane.

The No 572 from Watts Cross was ‘removed due to low usage’, according to the company. No replacement service has been offered.

The move, which was only announced on August 16, came into effect on the day that pupils went back to school on September 3 and was described as one of several ‘slight changes’.

Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge & Malling and a committed campaigner on local bus services, has written to Arriva to seek an explanation.

He said: “Understandably, this has caused a lot of frustration for parents who have now had to change their own plans in order to get their children to and from school on time.

“They are not sure how their children will get to school in the future, when many of the buses are overcrowded, or fail to stop. This is simply not acceptable.”

He added: “That situation needs to be urgently addressed, and that is why I have written to Arriva to ask what communication they had with schools, parents, and pupils about this cancellation, and how they will ensure that there is sufficient capacity through Hildenborough going forward.”

The loss of the service is understood to be caused by improvements on other routes going through the village, but they do not cater to the more rural parts of it.

A public meeting was held in Hildenborough on October 9 to discuss the issue and a spokesperson for Mr Tugendhat’s office said: “It was a well-attended meeting and feelings are certainly running high.

“Kent County Council and the operator have gone away to have a look at the issue to see whether they might be able to come up with a solution which will help the parents.”

Lauren Edmonds, Marketing Manager for Arriva Southern Counties, said: “Our customers’ experience is very important to us, so we seek to make continuous improvement to our services in the area.

“We strive to provide the best possible service to our customers and we hope these new developments will make our passengers’ journeys as efficient as possible.”

Weald of Kent pupils have benefited from an additional 148A bus coming from Hadlow at 07.25am.

In May, Southeastern cut a train service from Tonbridge to Hildenborough after the introduction of their new timetable.

This meant there was a gap in the service between 5pm and 6.01pm, at a crucial time of day for schoolchildren – as well as people returning from work.

However, action was taken to rectify the situation within weeks after pressure from a local commuter watchdog.

Previously there were two trains an hour on this service. Obviously it is a peak time for workers but also for schoolchildren trying to get home.

The explanation was that trains could not stop at Hildenborough on the half-hour as before because they would have arrived too late at London Bridge.

Southeastern said they would address the problem in December with a later train arriving at 5.46pm.

But following pressure from Tonbridge Line Commuters, the remedy was expedited and the extra stop was incorporated by the start of July.

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