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Next Meeting of the Parish Council

Monday 12th September 2022 at 7pm in Bean Village Hall 

 

Message from Cllr. Jeremy Kite, Leader of Dartford Borough Council - 15 July 2022

474/475 Bus

RURAL BUS SERVICES I know that many of you have been concerned by news of a proposal to withdraw subsidy from many bus routes across Kent including the rural 474/474 which links a number of our local villages to the regional bus hub at Bluewater (and therefore onward to the national bus network). The 474/475 is a crucial route and it’s no secret that my fellow local councillors Roger Perfitt and Steve Brown had grave concerns too. I want to let you know what Roger, Steve and I have been doing and where it has led us. Rather than simply wait for a withdrawal process to unfold, the moment that the potential removal of the 474/475 subsidy was revealed we began to see whether first, we could safeguard the existing subsidy or second, we could safeguard this rural route by other means. Given the county-wide nature of the proposals and the total budget involved, I don’t think we were confident of restoring the existing subsidy. So, we have been working behind-the-scenes and with KCC to safeguard a service by other means. It has led to us proposing an entirely new service for some of our most isolated rural communities including those served by the 474/475 We know these rural communities extremely well and I think the concept of a ‘Dartford Rural Flyer’ (our working title ) is one that makes great sense. If we get things right, the route could bring services to not just rural areas already served by the 474/475 but perhaps others as well. Dartford benefits from connections to one of the UK’s most innovative bus networks - Fastrack - as well as some key destinations - including Bluewater and Darent Valley Hospital. We also have a chain of sustainable rural communities that have a real social need for a bus service. It seems to Roger, Steve and me that these factors create an opportiunity for a sustainable new service. The key challenge for us, though, was to find a reliable source of funding that would enable us to move forward with confidence. After all, none of us want to create a service that does not have a certain future. I am pleased to tell you that I believe we have found that source of funding. It is sustainable and locally generated. KCC and we also believe it is sufficient to sustain a reliable and responsive local service. I have agreed the following statement with KCC outlining our plans. “Following the consultation launched by KCC and the potential withdrawal of the 474/475 service, the County Council has been working with local representatives with an aim to create a new service for Dartford’s rural communities that could potentially serve not only passengers on the existing 474/475 route but those from other isolated villages too. It’s an innovative proposal using transport revenues generated in Dartford to create a modern and sustainable rural service. Our intention would be to have a new service in place to coincide with any of the current changes proposed by KCC.” We have put in a lot of work to get to this point but we have a lot more to do before we can put all the flesh-on-the-bone of our plan. However, the confirmation of KCC that they believe our proposal to be sustainable is hugely encouraging. We are, or soon will be, talking to local stakeholders including Parish Councils, potential operators and residents. Roger, Steve and I believe in the future of buses and know they have a huge part to play in meeting some of the big community, transport and environmental challenges ahead. We are determined to find a solution. We will be in touch again as plans for the ‘Rural Flyer’ develop but we thought you would like this update. Jeremy