This morning, I joined Greg Clark MP, local Borough Councillor Ted Jolley and several Sherwood residents at the TN2 Community Centre, to meet with Chief Executive of Arriva South East Heath Williams and General Manager Brian O'Kane.
The purpose of the meeting was to air and resolve some of the long-standing issues over bus services in and around the Sherwood area. Sunday buses, routing patterns, timetabling, accessibility - all were discussed this morning.
Residents' concerns were that bus services no longer ran to Knights Park; that available bus stops for some elderly residents were simply too far from where they lived; and that since local services were re-routed some years ago, there was no bus access to the Medical Centre, the chemist, the TN2 Centre or the local shops - all on Greggs Wood Road. Some residents are having to pay £8 for a taxi to drive them the short distance to their doctor's appointment - clearly a nonsense when buses run just yards away.
The meeting was positive and productive, and Arriva were certainly in listening mode. For KCC's part, I undertook to look into several issues which made Arriva's job a little more difficult. In the spirit of the recently-signed Quality Bus Partnership between Arriva, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Kent County Council, I agreed to try to resolve these issues for the benefit of all.
The good news was the announcement by Arriva that they have ordered three brand new buses for the 277 route, each with dropped access suitable for elderly and disabled passengers. Each bus costs £90,000, and this investment of £270,000 is made that much easier by the fact that Greggs Wood Road will soon be resurfaced and therefore safer for the new buses to travel down.
It was a really useful meeting, and I'm grateful to Greg Clark for organising it. If we all play our part, once again we can deliver a partnership win for Sherwood.