Stagecoach doubles East Kent passenger numbers

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Council partnership and operator marketing helps double ridership in less than a decade

Bus use in East Kent has doubled in less than a decade on Stagecoach services, according to new figures.

Figures compiled by the operator show more than 28.6m passenger trips were made on its services in East Kent in 2011 – up from 14.3m in 2003.

More than 550,000 bus trips are now taken on Stagecoach services in East Kent every week, up from just over 275,000 seven years ago, and the growth is three times higher than seen on buses in London over the same period.

Nearly 270 jobs have been created by Stagecoach in the last 10 years. Many bus routes, particularly those linking the area’s main towns, run twice as frequently as before.

The statistics collated by Stagecoach show: Bus growth in Kent between 2003 and 2011 was more than 100% – compared to 34% in London over the same period. The scale of the switch to bus travel in East Kent is nearly eight times that in England and around 10 times the rate in Great Britain. The extra bus passengers on Stagecoach services equates to cutting a total of 8.75m car trips from Kent’s roads over the past seven years.

Bus growth in East Kent has been boosted by a strong partnership between Stagecoach and Kent County Council (KCC), as well as continued investment in improving the quality of bus travel.

Stagecoach ran a number of initiatives to increase numbers, including telesales and door-todoor delivery marketing, improved bus stop information and ensuring a real term reduction in some fares.

KCC introduced some pro-bus measures, such as technology support for smartcards and real time information provision, increasing bus stop accessibility and the ‘Freedom’ scheme, offering county-wide bus travel for 11 to 16-year-olds for under £2 per week.

Stagecoach Group chief executive Sir Brian Souter said: “This is an incredible public transport success story and Kent’s forward-looking approach is a great example to the rest of the country. It also shows the wider benefits of buses in supporting economic growth, meeting our big environmental challenges, and cutting congestion which is such a wasteful drain on our economy and blight on our local communities.

“In Kent, we have strong partnerships with the County Council and other authorities. This has produced a winning package of easy-to-use bus networks, long-term investment, good value fares, and effective policies. With the same initiatives and support elsewhere in the UK, the prospects for buses are really exciting.”

Bryan Sweetland, KCC’s cabinet member for Highways, said: “This is a really good story. Our quality partnerships between KCC, the District Councils and Stagecoach have contributed towards the greatest increase in bus travel seen anywhere in Britain during the past decade.

“KCC is committed to our partnership working with Stagecoach, so we can ensure continued modal shift from car to bus, less traffic congestion and fewer CO2 emissions.”

In Canterbury, bus use has also benefitted from the relocation of Whitefriars parking to a new bus park and ride site and the City Council’s decision to focus education in the city centre.

The Westwood Cross retail centre in Thanet has been developed in a location that ensures integration with the bus network. In Folkestone, when car parking was reduced, regular commuters benefitted from cheaper bus fares to access the town centre containing the new Bouverie Place shopping centre.