Rye passengers waiting for buses that never arrive
BUS passengers in the Rye area complain they are often left stranded and uninformed as buses break down.
The issue was raised by Rye Town Council’s public services committee when it met recently.
The main problem seems to be on the Stagecoach 344 route, which serves Rye.
The route was hit by five break-downs between October 1 and December 15 last year. In many cases passengers were left waiting for buses that never arrived and were in the dark about what was happening with the service.
Rye councillors believe the problems are being caused by ageing buses that are not being replaced.
Pat Hughes, co-ordinator of the successful Rye Community Transport Service, told councillors: “The difficulties with Stagecoach are continuing.
“The problem we have in the rural areas is that we don’t know what’s happening.
“People are waiting for buses that don’t arrive and they are not told anything about what is happening.
The situation is not helped when you ring the county council to report problems with the bus service and there is no-one there outside office hours.
“It is difficult to get through to Stagecoach’s own customer services department in Canterbury.
Stagecoach has said that when a break down occurs the company immediately dispatches a mechanic with a relief bus, but the problem is that the mechanic sets out from a depot in St Leonards and if the break-down takes place in a rural area it is often some time before the mechanic can reach it.
Colin Easton from East Sussex County Council’s public transport section, said: “It has become a trend in the bus industry for companies to become more centralised. Thus, while many small towns in the past would have had an out-station, possibly with a spare bus that could be allocated, this is no longer the case.
“It does mean that a bus break down in places such as Rye cannot be covered quite as quickly as it once was.
“This applies though the whole of the county and, indeed, there are a number of East Sussex towns and villages where the depot supplying the vehicles for the bus services is a lot more distant than St Leonards is from Rye.
Asked by Rye Council if the county council has any requirements as to bus age when awarding contracts, Mr Eaton said: “I think it is important not to get too obsessed with vehicle age.
“It is clearly unrealistic to expect operators to have a fleet of vehicles, say, less than one year old.
“Older buses can and do operate reliably when correctly maintained.”
Stagecoach has said it regards the break-down rate as too high but says buses are subject to a thorough servicing schedule which includes workshop checks every 21 days.
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Weather for St Leonards-on-Sea
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 9 C
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