A small hours bus service to Gatwick Airport from the coast via the A22 at Hailsham, Uckfield, Nutley, Forest Row and East Grinstead could be withdrawn this month.
St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement (SHRIMP), Bexhill Rail Action Group (BRAG) and East Sussex Rail Alliance (ESRA), say they are ‘disappointed’ the Early Bird 380 to Gatwick, run by Metrobus and sponsored by Gatwick Airport Ltd, is to stop running on April 22.
The twice-nightly service was introduced in mid 2015 to supplement the nonexistent early hours rail service.
However, despite low fares, passenger numbers have been consistently low meaning the service is no longer commercially viable.
Martin Woodfine, from SHRIMP, said: “This was a bold initiative which we regret has not been the success that was hoped for. Hindsight is a marvellous tool, but the lack of promotion by the operators, a routing which by-passed population catchment areas and unclear signage at the airport are all significant contributory factors to its failure. In reality, a large number of people never saw the bus or knew it operated.”
Wealden District Councillor, Barry Marlowe from Buxted said: “We are trying to persuade Gatwick to continue sponsoring this bus. The problem is it shoots up the A22 in the dark and no-one knows where to catch it. You have to stand on the grass verge and hold your hand out. Then the return journey doesn’t take the same route and heads back south via Maresfield, Buxted and Herstmonceux so that’s a difficult option for people returning from work. If a few changes were made to the route, I am sure it would be viable. We worked hard to set this up and our research shows there are many people who would use it, if they could find where it stops.”
Martin Woodfine went on: “There may still be an opening for a service but with a different route providing links to other significant points as well as Gatwick, with wider operational times to make it more visible.
“We have ideas on this and would be pleased to have discussions with other potential operators – but there must be the caveat there may be a period when the service remains an unrewarding commercial venture.”
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