Rye’s 326 town bus service carried nearly 19.000 passengers in the space of a year and yet it is facing funding cuts.
Now Rye and District Community Transport has said it will go it alone to ensure people can still use the service.
Chairman John Izod said: “In the year to August 31st, our 326 services carried almost 19,000 passengers. That’s a lot of people using the bus to do a lot of things.
“When we started the 326 in 2001 we did not have financial support from County but found it elsewhere. We are putting in place some solid long term financing and have already begun talking to organisations, individuals, companies, to achieve what is needed.”
Operations Manager, Pat Hughes, said: “We have slightly tweaked the current Monday to Friday 326 timetable so that the only service lost will be the 15.15 run from Rye Station to Tilling Green.
“We will also be running a Saturday service which will mean that people can use the bus to get up to the High Street. We plan to talk to passengers between now and the end of the year to sort out the exact Saturday timetable.
“We are also fighting to have the Dial-a-Ride service taken out of the list of tendered services. Our Dial-a-Ride is a bespoke service which provides transport for those with mobility problems in Rye and the 12 surrounding villages.
“Although County has given financial support right from the start in 1999, up till now it has not been included in the tendered services schedule with the constraints thus put on the operation.
“County’s proposals reduce the service to a two-day a week operation running from 9.30 to 14.30, even the ‘as is’ tender option has this limit on operating hours. Between a third and half of our Dial-a-Ride journeys are for medical appointments and with our local surgeries open from 8.30 to 18.30 that limit is ridiculous. On an average week probably half the Dial-a-Ride journeys are before 9.30 or after 14.30.
“We have to be flexible and cater for the hiccups which inevitably occur - only last Friday we had an instance of a passenger coming out of a medical appointment almost 45 minutes later than had been booked, and of course that had an effect on other journeys. And over half the Dial-a- Ride journeys are for non-medical reasons: shopping, hair appointments, meetings, social activities - only last month we enabled a person in a wheelchair to attend a friend’s wedding reception on a Saturday afternoon.
“The supported services that we run currently, the 326 and the Dial-a-Ride, are vital, providing an essential lifeline for our communities in this largely rural area. We will not have their operations compromised.”
Opposition to the bus cut proposals have been widespread with both Rye MP Amber Rudd and parliamentary candidate Sarah Owen fighting to keep them. A public consultation ends on Sunday September 28.