Arriva launches 21 new Fastrack vehicles in Kent

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With the funding assistance of Kent County Council, vehicles are upgraded to Sapphire specification, with Sapphire services 480/490 also receiving an upgrade

Arriva, in partnership with Kent County Council, Dartford and Gravesham Borough Councils and Prologis, has launched a brand-new fleet of 21 Wrightbus StreetLite micro-hybrids onto the two high-frequency Fastrack services that link Gravesend, Bluewater and Dartford.

The company also marked the introduction of a more frequent timetable for its Sapphire 480/490 services between Dartford, Bluewater, Northfleet, Gravesend and Valley Drive, together with an extension of the route to serve Riverview Park.

Representing an investment of £3.5m, the new Fastrack buses carry a new Fastrack livery and are to the same high specification as the Sapphire buses, with free on-board WiFi, three-pin and USB power points next to each seat, audio-visual next-stop displays, environmentally-sourced leather seating and brighter interior lighting. The livery design, branding and the specification uplift have been funded by a contribution of £600,000 from Kent County Council.

Following the introduction of the Sapphire buses last September, the popularity of the service has enabled Arriva to make some improvements.

The Sapphire fleet is being increased by the addition of four more double-deckers to the same high specification, following the successful trial use of two double-deckers on the service in recent months.

The frequency of the services is being increased to run every seven or eight minutes over the section of route between the northern end of Valley Drive and Greenhithe, with the Dartford and Bluewater sections increased to run every 15 minutes. Alternate buses will run from Valley Drive via St. Hilda’s Way to serve Riverview Park, doubling the number of buses serving the estate, with the remaining buses continuing to run to Mackenzie Way as at present.

Another improvement to the Sapphire service is that it will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a two-hourly frequency during the early hours of the morning.

Arriva Marketing Manager Richard Lewis said: “Between them, the Fastrack and Sapphire services provide frequent ways to get around the area and with Sapphire running 24 hours a day we hope that this will generate additional use of the service by people on shift work or who need to get home in the early hours of the morning after enjoying a night out.”

In addition to the new buses, Kent County Council is investing in a programme of investment in Fastrack that has already seen the refurbishment of bus shelters and other infrastructure along the routes. This will be followed by the installation of new information screens at bus stops to not only give real-time information about buses that are due at the stop but also other local traffic information.