I am sure you will all know by now, that this month I resigned from my role as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Department of Transport. And whilst it was not a decision I took lightly; I will always do what I think is right for my constituents, country and party.
The next Conservative Prime Minister, as well as all of us in the Conservative party, must now work every day to regain the public’s trust. I am incredibly proud and honoured to represent Sevenoaks and I will continue to serve you all with the determination, energy, and commitment you deserve.
Since my election, my priority has been to focus on the issues that matter most to residents including protecting the Green Belt, improving local transport infrastructure, delivering more school choice for all pupils, and addressing the cost-of-living pressures that many families are under. This month local transport has been top of that list.
Firstly, school buses. Since becoming an MP I have never had more emails over a single local issue than the recent announcement relating to the school bus service from Sevenoaks being radically reduced.
Following my letters to the local bus company concerned (Go Coach) and Kent County Council (KCC) to express the deep distress local parents and children were feeling, I last week met with KCC Leader Roger Gough and Cllr David Brazier, the KCC cabinet member for transport.
The emerging positive news is that there has been initial agreement between Go Coach and KCC, which Go Coach say will leave the schools in Sevenoaks largely unaffected. There are also discussions over some resumption of service to Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells. There is more detail to come and discussions to be had – including with other bus companies.
In the meantime, Go Coach have sent me a list in relation to their overall bus routes – which I have shared on my Facebook page. This provides outline information, and I appreciate fuller details will be required. Whilst this is a step forward, I will continue to press for more detail, both in relation to the Go Coach services, and other potential services as I remain deeply concerned about children getting to Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells schools. When these details are available, I will be sure to share them with you. KCC will be also providing updates on their website: https://www.kent.gov.uk/roads-and-travel/travelling-around-kent/bus-travel/bus-services-in-kent
The second matter of concern relates to individual bus routes, including the #477 which runs from Orpington to Dartford and the #423 Dartford to New Ash Green. These routes are operated by Arriva and KCC reported that these services are to be withdrawn from October 2022. Such cuts would have a severe impact on the people of Swanley, New Ash Green, Hextable and Crockenhill – with Hextable and Crockenhill left with no service whatsoever – and New Ash Green in a similar position on Sundays. Last week I wrote to Go Coach to ask they consider taking over the #477 route and following conversations between KCC Councillor Perry Cole, Swanley Town Council Leader Michael Horwood and Go Coach, they have agreed to take on part of the route - from Swanley to Dartford. This still leaves Crockenhill without a bus and I will continue to push for a solution. Concerning the #423, I am having very early conversations over this and whilst I cannot currently report anything concrete, I hope to be able to provide an update later in the summer.
Buses are a lifeline for so many people in communities like ours, but rural buses in particular are facing challenges. Whether its transporting teenagers to college, allowing pensioners to see their friends, or allowing people to travel to and from work, bus services sustain town centres, strengthen society, and protect the environment, and I will continue to campaign so that the services continue.
But, we also must use them. My message to you all today is please use your bus routes. It is the best protection we can give them. I will be sharing updates over the summer on my Facebook page, so please do follow my page for the latest.
MP for Sevenoaks and Swanley
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