South Thanet’s Member of Parliament, Craig Mackinlay MP, has brought residents, the Parish Council and Stagecoach together at a public meeting in Staple, attended by over 120 people, after the recent revision of bus routes by Stagecoach left many residents in the village without access to public transport.
Craig’s public meeting, which took place last Friday, also follows recent briefings Kent County Council has organised to highlight how community transport schemes can be brought to rural communities in response to specific local transport needs.
Stagecoach South East’s Managing Director, Philip Norwell also joined Craig at the event to listen to residents’ concerns, update them on the current situation and explore the way forward.
Craig Mackinlay MP commented:
“The withdrawal of the 13A and 14 routes - which served Staple - affects both younger and older residents of Staple and the surrounding villages. The nearest bus service is over a mile away, as are the nearest shops and many residents’ GP surgeries. I am well aware that this distance is too great for residents and I am now receiving reports that many elderly residents are having to consider moving from the village.
“At the meeting we had a frank exchange of views, highly charged at times, centring around Stagecoach’s economic and strategic considerations leading to their decision to cease the services in September. Residents with children also expressed their anger at paying for KCC’s ‘Young Persons Travel Pass’ only to find that the bus service outside of the school specific routes were subsequently withdrawn.
“We agreed to explore a number of options – 1. whether a KCC supported service supplied by Regent coaches elsewhere in East Kent, but similarly served by an existing Stagecoach route, could be moved to serve Staple and other local hamlets, and 2. to pursue a Community Bus option that would provide a local loop to then plug in to the frequent existing Stagecoach services along the A257 route of Sandwich to Canterbury, with Wingham serving as the central node. Stagecoach offered their specialist help to support either of these options.”