I live just outside Swanley, in South Darenth, and in my village there’s a lot of concern about bus services – or lack of them.
When I moved in to the village about 18 years ago, there were evening and Sunday buses, under the newly-elected Labour Government’s rural bus subsidy. As soon as the subsidy went, so did the buses. You simply can’t run a rural service to most villages without a public subsidy of some kind.
In many rural areas, buses are often the only form of public transport and have been so in particular since the dreadful Beeching rail cuts of the 1960s. Even with our current service, which is very reliable, it’s cheaper to drive to somewhere like Dartford than catch the bus – which is ridiculous.
There has been much comment on announcements made by the candidates in the Labour leadership contest, but the pledges made on buses by Jeremy Corbyn have gone pretty much unreported. He has recognised the need for improved bus services and called for routes to be extended to areas not currently covered, to give councils franchising powers over their bus networks, and to set up publicly-owned bus companies.
This would be great not just for those of us in semi-rural areas but for Swanley residents wanting to visit relatives in South Darenth, go walking in Eynsford or to discover the roman villa in Lullingstone. Apparently there are a number of very good village pubs in the Darent Valley that are worth leaving the car at home to visit!
This extension of bus services – partly paid for by the money saved through public ownership – is vital for people to get to work, to cut the cost of living (which tends to be higher in rural areas) and to provide continued independence for our elderly in particular.
You could even be really radical and link up bus times to when trains arrive and have a fully integrated transport system.
Secretary of Shoreham & District Labour Party Branch