Knockholt & Halstead may get much reduced replacement bus service

Arriva’s proposal to axe the 402 bus between Sevenoaks and Bromley has attracted a lot of local criticism. The plan continues to be surprising as our own observations have shown that in the morning between Sevenoaks and Knockholt there are always more than 10 passengers on the hourly service.

It appears that Kent County Council have now agreed with Go-Coach to support a limited replacement service number 431 from July. This will do three round trips in the middle of the day between Sevenoaks and Orpington (in addition to the existing schools service).

That’s better than nothing for these surprisingly isolated villages. However it is a much poorer service than the existing 402:

  • three round trips a day Monday to Friday is only a quarter of the existing service – which does 12 buses a day in each direction at present.
  • there will be no Saturday service – compared to eleven buses in each direction at present.
  • there is no service suitable for commuters – the buses only run between 0930 and 1530.
  • the route serves Orpington Hospital, but it does not serve the Princess Royal University Hospital at Locksbottom – despite the fact that there are proposals to relocate some Sevenoaks Hospital services there.
  • There will be two hours between buses in each direction, rather than hourly at present. That may be good business for the coffee shops at Tescos and in Orpington and Sevenoaks Town Centres. But it makes the service much less attractive.

Moreover by going to Orpington (rather than Bromley) the new service would compete more directly with the TfL R5/R10 services. This may be bad for the sustainability of all future services.

Knockholt Parish Council have arranged a public meeting to discuss this on Thursday 22 June at 1900 in Knockholt Village Centre. It will be attended by KCC and Go-Coach representatives. If you care about these bus services it is important that you attend!


Knockholt & Halstead may get much reduced replacement bus service — 4 Comments

  1. Many Thanks for the update. As you say, better than nothing, but we must press for the existing service to continue effectively. My postbag has been full on this one unsurprisingly, and we simply cannot afford to cut off any more rural bus services and isolate village people still further.

  2. @alan We agree. We’ve had more visits to our earlier article on this than to any other single page in the history of our website!

    There’s also a risk of a “spiral of decline”: a more meagre service will attract fewer passengers, and so less income, and so is at risk of being cut back even more.

  3. With such long intervals between services and a very early afternoon curfew, it’s imperative that timetable and route information is readily available at all its bus stops. The info needs to be free of charge and not be restricted to those who carry expensive smart gizmos with them.

    Sadly, that’s an area where Go-Coach have been spectacularly unsuccessful; the ‘secret’ Route 8 bus stops are often just useless flags that omit both the route number and the destination, merely promoting a 67p per minute helpline (without the mandatory Ofcom price warning) and a similarly expensive text message service.

    Route 8 has already been cut back severely and probably won’t last much longer: a similar venture in the 1990s serving Brittains Lane soon failed because of a complete lack of publicity and infrastructure, as did the excellent X11 Express service to Gatwick (despite being cheaper, quicker and more convenient than the train). I fear that the new 431 service is likely to be yet another example that falls by the wayside.

  4. Although I appreciate the idea of a 431 replacement service to Bromley from Sevenoaks, I cannot understand why it can’t run at the peak time when all the regular customers that need the bus to get to work use it. Surely they are the most consistent form of revenue? One regular has already sadly moved out of the area so she can keep her job!
    Saying that the old 402 lost money between Knockholt and Bromley doesn’t surprise me as I gather no one has apparently been charged a fare for some time as it has been assumed everyone has an Oyster card, and with no scanner – no revenue or details of customer numbers……

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