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Passengers in Kent are set for better bus services after Kent County Council and the five main local operators signed a deal to improve punctuality.
Arriva Southern Counties, Chalkwell Coach Hire, Go-Coach-Hire, Nu-Venture Coaches and Stagecoach East Kent all put their names to the Kent Bus Punctuality Improvement Partnership, which aims to maintain and improve punctuality and reliability.
Surveys show that these are the main concerns of bus users, ahead of issues such as comfort, cleanliness and driver attitudes. The agreement means bus operators will now share their bus punctuality data with Kent County Council. This will allow problem areas to be identified and then tackled by working together.
The agreement has also won the backing of the government official who overseas bus services in the region, the Traffic Commissioner for London and the South East, Nick Denton.
Kent County Council has worked closely with bus operators through schemes, such as local Quality Bus Partnerships, which have seen new vehicles, bus stop improvements and better bus shelters.
This partnership working combined with significant investment has contributed to substantially increased bus use over the last ten years. In the 2010/11 financial year more than 60.3 million passenger journeys were made in Kent by bus; an increase of 2.5% on the previous year.
Read what the stakeholders have to say.
Kent County Council Deputy Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Waste, David Brazier, said: "Kent County Council welcomes the Punctuality Improvement Partnership and the benefits that it will bring to Kent's travelling public. Maintaining and improving bus punctuality is central to providing a reliable alternative to the car. Encouraging bus use will enable both the council and bus operators to play their part in keeping Kent moving."
Traffic Commissioner for London and the South East, Nick Denton, said:
"Bus operators are aware of the standards traffic commissioners expect for local bus services and of the targets set for punctuality and reliability. Any additional means designed to achieve this are welcome and should give further reassurance to passengers about service reliability."
Richard Lewis, Regional Publicity Manager for Arriva Southern Counties, said:"We fully support this Kent County Council initiative and hope that the identification of problem areas where buses are regularly subjected to delays will enable appropriate action to be taken to keep traffic flowing. This will, in turn, enable our services to keep to their scheduled timetables."
Andrew Bates, Operations Manager for Chalkwell, said:
"We believe that this partnership will bring real benefits to our customers and Kent's wider travelling public. Bus punctuality is an important issue and one that all partners need to work together to maintain and improve."
Austin Blackburn, Managing Director for Go-Coach said:
"We look forward to working in partnership with Kent County Council and the benefits that this will bring to our customers."
Norman Kemp, Company Secretary for Nu-Venture, said:
"The PIP is the culmination of many months of work by bus company managers and county officers behind the scenes. It will hopefully help bus companies to build a relationship with Highways managers at Kent County Council in a structured way to ensure that passengers benefit from the most reliable bus services possible."
Neil Instrall, Operations Director for Stagecoach East Kent, said:
"Stagecoach in East Kent is looking forward to working in partnership with Kent County Council to tackle the various issues which affect the punctuality of the local bus services which we operate, as we know that our passengers view this as an important subject."