By Bryan Sweetland, KCC Councillor for Gravesham Rural (in picture, second from left). I have always supported the case for a Sunday bus service in the rural areas. However not enough people use them, which makes it unprofitable for commercial companies and local councils no longer have the money to subsidise them. So what is the answer?
This problem exists in many villages not just in Kent but across the country. Often, the initial response is to create a local petition, but in my experience a lot of people will happily sign a petition for a Sunday bus service, but in reality not many people would use it. Also, are we talking about a full Sunday service or one bus in the morning and one late afternoon? If the service remained unprofitable, which is likely, who would subsidise it?
Some villages have taken things into their own hands and now operate a mini bus service which is run by volunteers. This needs a lot of effort to organise and again, how many people would use it and what would a local mini bus service look like?
How to satisfy important public transport needs in rural villages when such services are unprofitable is a real conundrum.
In response to this challenge Kent County Council have recently compiled a report on bus services in rural areas. Its aim is to inform policy on potential delivery of rural bus services in unprofitable areas. It came up with three ideas:
- A feeder bus service, to ferry outlying villagers to mainstream routes
- Bookable bus services
- Taxi style mini-bus services
If you are a parish councillor or community champion in your village grappling with this problem, then the report is well worth a read. It’s rather long but worth a look at some of the suggestions from other communities. Download from this link to get the rural bus services report.