I thought you might appreciate an update on what is happening about the 285 Bus Service from Hawkenbury to the Town centre.
As you may know, this is a purely commercial service, and the operator - Nu Venture buses of Maidstone - have said that it is not attracting enough passengers to cover its costs.
I know how important this service is to many residents of Hawkenbury – who absolutely rely on it – and others such as people who work in the AXA building, the old Land Registry.
During the last few days I have met with the principal people who might be able to help find a way to keep the 285 going, including Kent County Council, who licence all bus services in Kent.
I have met with the Managing Director of Nu Venture, the current operator of the route. When challenged that passenger numbers are still supressed because of Covid, Nu Venture said that the number of people using the service is so low that their forecasts do not see a recovery in use to the point that would make it viable.
As you may know, Nu Venture dedicate a vehicle and driver full time to the route. Given that the problem is that there is not enough – or forecast to be enough – fare revenue to cover the costs of this, I have met with other bus operators in the area, including Arriva and Go Coaches, to ask them if it is possible to combine some of their existing services with operating the 285 – even if it meant a less frequent, but viable, service.
I have also met with the UK Chief Executive Officer of AXA to explore whether the company could make an increased contribution to the finances of the service, since it provides a more sustainable way than driving for their employees to get to Hawkenbury from the centre of town, and also avoids additional street parking pressures on the - already inadequate - parking places in the roads and streets of Hawkenbury.
I have been in touch too, with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and developers to see if it is possible for the new developments in and adjacent to Hawkenbury to make a contribution to this service.
I am having further discussions this week. Although as a Member of Parliament I have no powers to direct any of the people I have described I will continue to do everything I can to try to bring people together in a spirit of trying to find a creative solution to a very pressing problem.
I will keep you updated as to how this work goes.