The FHDC / Kent County Council Joint Transportation Board meeting on Monday was three very long hours. I've only now recovered enough to write about it.
The meeting was important as the MD of Stagecoach locally, Joel Mitchell, was there to explain the recent timetable debacle. All Councillors had been having furious feedback all week, and it was a chance to hear the logic directly.
The meeting, if you really want to watch it it is at https://www.youtube.com/live/dfwY1py_e8U?si=uBct3sUQhPGr4V9K – STRONGLY recommend skipping to 39 minutes in, which is where the Stagecoach section starts.
I think for the Stagecoach item, it be fair, Joel Mitchell was reasonably frank. He accepted mistakes had been made (and apologised) and was going to try to sort the worst ones, starting with school transport issues, and getting timetables up, then look forward.
He certainly alluded to the losses that Folkestone and Dover Stagecoach were making as being “existential”. Although there are days when I’m sure we’d think anyone would be better than Stagecoach to run our bus services, actually at this moment there just isn’t anyone who could “drop in” and start doing so.
Indeed, the only other operator in Kent is Arriva who don’t have a great reputation themselves in their areas either. It’s Hobson’s choice, but it is a better service than nothing, which looks like the other option. The loss of quite so many pass customers (something like a third) compared with pre-Covid I can see is business changing: we need to see how to address that, if we can.
What should be made clear is that there had been a LOT of residents feedback, emails, councillors emails and other things sent to Joel in advance of that meeting. He was absolutely clear of the view of local people, because he had been given them. I think that showed, but we’ll only know over coming weeks.
If he has got (or gets) on top of school transport right now, that's an obvious priority. Then he needs all timetables replaced urgently at every bus stop. From there, if we can get more early and late bus times reinstated, and then can look at building back on services on some other routes, possibly in conjunction with a concerted local “use your bus” campaign, then maybe we will recover some ground.