Mixed reaction to bus firm’s move to take over routes

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A bus firm has announced it will be taking over a number of routes under threat in 1066 Country on a commercial basis.

In summer East Sussex County Council (ESCC) proposed changes to the way it subsidises bus transport across the county in a bid to save £1.79 million over two years and launched a 12-week consultation on July 7, which ended on Sunday (September 28).

Since then thousands of residents have voiced their anger over feared cuts and a campaign and petition set up.

Stagecoach Buses said this week it will take over some routes from next March, which include some of the evening 20, 21 and 22 services in Hastings and St Leonards, the Sunday daytime service and the Monday to Saturday 344 bus between Hastings, Fairlight and Rye, running the service hourly.

The news has received a mixed response.

Sarah Owen, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Hastings and Rye, who set up the Don’t Stop our Bus campaign, said: “Last Friday, Councillor John Hodges and I hand-delivered our 7,000-strong petition against the bus cuts to East Sussex County Council and I welcome the fact that it’s already had an effect. Although I welcome the development that Stagecoach will take on six of 21 affected routes, it is clearly not enough. There is no guarantee that Stagecoach will continue to run these routes in the future. Bus numbers 7, 24, 28, 29, 95, 254, 304, 312, 326, 341, 342, 347, 349 or Dial-a-Ride 155/156 are not mentioned, leaving those bus users in limbo.

Cllr Hodges, Labour’s transport spokesman at ESCC, said: “Every part of the community is adversely affected and every part asked for our help in the complete absence of those who had proposed and organised this campaign of indiscriminate cuts to a bus service that facilitated their daily lives and their business aspirations. This is the same message that we took to the managing director of Stagecoach South East in a face-to-face meeting.”

Hastings MP Amber Rudd welcomed the news. She said: “I’m delighted that after weeks of hard work and community activism Stagecoach has announced that it’ll be taking over some of the subsidised bus routes in Hastings and Rye. This decision has been made thanks to residents standing up and making their voices heard and taking part in the bus consultation.” The responses to the 12-week consultation will be considered by ESCC’s cabinet in December.