I’ll never forget the anxiety I felt as a little girl, waiting for a school bus that never arrived, or even more soul destroying, watching it fly past me without stopping. It didn’t matter how prepared I was for my day, if I was late for school I knew it would annoy my teachers, disrupt the rest of the class and put me on the back foot before I’d even hung up my sopping wet duffle coat.
Years later, when I received letters from constituents with similar anguishes, it resonated strongly with me and led to the Maidstone Bus Liaison Committee being formed. The group brings together bus operators, schools and local authorities to address the root causes of bus lateness in Maidstone. It has become a hugely worthwhile forum, allowing two-way communication between schools and bus companies and ensuring issues with timetabling, capacity and passenger behaviour are swiftly addressed.
I remain proud to play an active role in the group but the ‘best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry’ in the face of persistent chronic traffic congestion in the Maidstone conurbation. I raised the issue at length in my Local Plan deposition to the Inspector in November 2016, but little has changed. The problem has re-emerged at the most recent Bus Liaison Committee meeting last week and places renewed pressure upon our authorities to address the problem.
Highways England could run a quick fix by shortening night time closures on the M20, reducing the knock-on impact in Maidstone; in the medium term, assessment work on developing our highways has to be freed from the legal logjam between KCC and MBC; concurrently planners must give more weight to the need for better road infrastructure serving our many new housing developments.
Solving this problem is not easy and, like the bus committee, it will only be successful if we all work together and put Maidstone’s interests first.