Park and Ride services in Maidstone will end on Saturday 19th February, following the council’s refusal to help the operator reach breakeven, at a time when passenger numbers were picking up after lockdown.
The impact of the pandemic, and uncertainty of Department of Transport funding, led service provider Arriva to seek the borough’s assistance in meeting the funding shortfall as the service moved towards breakeven. While Lib Dems fought to save the service the Conservative-run council chose to refuse support.
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Cllr. Clive English [Maidstone Borough Council Lib Dem Group Leader] stated, “Although national grant funding is uncertain after April, with passenger numbers increasing it is likely that council support would only be needed short term while alternative funding options are sought. It is completely unacceptable to do nothing and watch this valued service close down. We feel break-even support should be provided and we will continue to challenge any attempt by Conservatives to pull the rug from Park and Ride services in the borough.”
Cllr. Brian Clark [Maidstone Lib Dem Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Spokesperson] continued, “Allowing our popular “Park and Ride” service to fail due to reduced passenger numbers, clearly due to the pandemic, is a travesty. The decision wipes out many sustainable travel opportunities, hindering our drive to improve air quality in the urban area along with our plan to reach net zero. With housing numbers and congestion in the borough at an all-time high, this is a catastrophic step backwards.
As a post-script Cllr. Tony Harwood [Maidstone Borough Council Lib Dem Planning Committee Spokesperson] added, "Both the Willington Street and London Road Park and Rides are located within areas already under intense pressure from urban sprawl. He concluded, "Maidstone Lib Dems will challenge any attempt to asset strip this land for yet more housing."