With KCC adopting Fastrack A from April 2022, we wanted to ensure we are planning the service in accordance with the needs of the community.
The Fastrack service belongs to the communities it serves, and the services provided must be directly influenced by them. This is distinct from just service users, in that we also have a strong focus on non-users who live and work closely to the network in informing our service plans, including local businesses.
Through regular, open and transparent engagement with communities, KCC aims to both match the schedules to changing travel patterns and constantly seek to improve the service and innovate based upon your input.
Between March 31st and April 26th 2021, KCC undertook a survey of The Bridge residents to further understand their views of the Fastrack bus service. All 1487 households were invited to take place in the survey. The survey was undertaken with the intention of informing future decision making about Fastrack when KCC specifically adopts the A service from April 2022.
This survey had a response rate of 27% which exceeded our original projections of 15% and showed a strong interest by residents of The Bridge in influencing the future of the service. Significantly, 81% of respondents used the Fastrack service at least once a week prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, with 70% using the service at least 3 times a week. This illustrated the importance of the service to the community.
The results of this survey were discussed at The Bridge Fastrack Resident Forum which was held on the 13th January 2022. This event provided residents with a chance to ask questions and offer feedback on the proposals for the future Fastrack service at The Bridge. This document provides an overview of the key questions discussed at that meeting, including the changes coming to the Fastrack service starting in April this year.
How will service capacity be managed from April with the removal of the AZ service and combination with the A service? What will be the impact to the timetable, particularly at peak times?
From Sunday 3rd April 2022, the Fastrack service timetables through The Bridge will be changing to best match capacity against demand throughout the day. This will come in the form of changes to both the Route A and AZ:
Route A – Route A services will be diverting into the Amazon site between The Bridge and Greenhithe Station, which will add a few minutes to journeys. By serving Amazon using Route A throughout the day, this will remove the need for AZ services other than at shift changeover times. This will reduce the number of vehicle journeys through The Bridge as AZ vehicles which currently have small levels of demand at off peak periods will be removed, with the low numbers of passengers for Amazon at these times using Route A. As a result of serving Amazon, Route A services will operate 24 hours a day like the current AZ service, stopping at all stops throughout The Bridge. The service will be changing to become 5 buses an hour throughout the day using the same number of vehicles as before. This is to improve service reliability, with services having longer at the terminal points between journeys to improve on-time running at the service start. The A service will be served by the current single deck vehicles, and from 2023 these will be replaced by a fleet of electric high capacity single deck vehicles.
Route AZ – As above, Route AZ will be removed except for journeys around shift changeover times. AZ journeys will operate between Dartford and Amazon, and between Amazon and Gravesend. KCC has undertaken detailed modelling work of vehicle capacities and existing demand from Amazon in order to ensure sufficient capacity is in place on the AZ at shift changeover times to minimise the impact on Route A. Additional AZ journeys will be added in line with increases in demand such in in the run up to Christmas. AZ journeys will stop at all stops between Amazon and Dartford, which will add additional journeys between The Bridge and Dartford in the morning and evening peaks for residents of The Bridge.
Further changes to Route A are planned for 2023, included the extension of services to Ebbsfleet and Gravesend, as well as providing additional early morning and evening journeys, 7 days a week, to provide a more comprehensive timetable.
Fastrack will be getting a new electric bus fleet and new passenger real time information displays. When will we see the benefits of this?
Over the coming years the Fastrack network is undergoing significant changes which will improve the service offering. From 2023, the Fastrack Network will be going zero emission, with the new fleet of high-capacity single deck vehicles. The new electric fleet will be fully accessible and will be at least 8dbs quieter than the current buses.
Furthermore in 2022 we will be tendering for the next generation of bus shelters and real time information screens. These new information screens will be interactive and provide more detail including current performance levels and live reasons for service disruption. This will help to ensure passengers are informed about delays as and when they happen and will help prevent situations where buses do not turn up without warning. The first of these will be being installed in Gravesend in Spring 2022 as part of the Gravesend Bus Hub project, with a further rollout across the network expected within the next 12 to 18 months. Priority sites include Dartford Home Gardens, Greenhithe Station and Bluewater Shopping Centre.
Will we have to pay for the service from April?
Since the development of The Bridge Estate, Prologis as the developer have had an obligation under there planning conditions with Dartford Borough Council to fund the Route A service, including providing free passes to residents. We understand from speaking to residents that properties may have been sold by real-estate companies on the basis of a free residents bus pass while not promoting an end date. When planning permission was given, the obligation to provide these services was to finish in April 2022, at which point KCC will adopt the service.
As an Authority we understand how residents feel in response to the end of the free residents’ travel. As an Authority we have investigated different scenarios regarding the future of the resident pass, but it will not be feasible for us to offer the same free ticketing. Nonetheless, KCC is committed to the service offering the best value possible, and we have taken onboard the feedback provided through the 2021 Bridge Resident’s Survey and 2021 Network Survey, as well as the Resident’s Forum. Looking to the future, we will continue to fine tune the ticketing platform and fares on offer for all of Fastrack, and we are open to further engagement.
How much will we have to pay for the service from April?
KCC fully understands the concern of The Bridge residents in going from paying zero to paying a full fare and whilst we do not have the ability to maintain the free resident passes, we want to make Fastrack remains a valued resource for local residents and businesses. From April 2022, KCC has agreed discounted fare rates with Arriva for residents of The Bridge upon presentation of an existing Bridge Residents Pass. In response to feedback, these discounts have been focused on period tickets to protect journey times. These discounted ‘The Bridge Pass Holder’ tickets will be valid for unlimited use on the entire of Fastrack Route A only:
Weekly Ticket — £13.50 (equivalent to £1.93 per day)
4 Weekly Ticket — £47.00 (equivalent to £1.68 per day)
Annual Ticket — £470.00 (equivalent to £1.29 per day)
Adult single and return fare prices from The Bridge are as follows:
Adult Single: The Bridge to Dartford / Bluewater — £2.60
Adult Return: The Bridge to Dartford / Bluewater — £3.80
Period tickets will be available to purchase on the Arriva app and website, with the week and 4 week products also available to buy on the bus. To purchase a ticket on the bus, residents will need to show their existing Bridge resident’s pass to the driver to the purchase the ticket. When boarding when already in possession of a ticket, you will only need to scan the ticket on the ticket machine. Residents will not need to show their pass when travelling unless requested to do so by the driver or an inspector on the bus.
From 2023, KCC will take full responsibility for fares, and we will be looking to revamp the current Fastrack fare structure across the network. This will make ticketing on Fastrack simpler, more flexible and cheaper for all to use. It is our hope that we will not only retain the current users, but also attract new custom across the network. From 2023, as well as keeping fares affordable, KCC would also ensure that any surplus revenue is directly reinvested in continuously maintaining and improving the Fastrack service. From 2023, Kent is targeting fare reductions across Fastrack, including a minimum ambition of a 2 year fare freeze on certain prices.
What is going to be done to improve the existing service performance?
The input of residents in the survey illustrates a strong reliance of the Fastrack service. KCC understand the importance of improving the reliability and quality of Fastrack for residents. We recognise that the reliability of the service has not been where it should have been, particularly at peak times. As we take control of the A service, we intend to increase our monitoring of the service, including regular Fastrack specific performance meetings between the operator and the KCC Fastrack Team to drive improvements.
For our new service contracts for both route A and our current Route B, KCC will put a greater emphasis on quality and reliability. Tougher sanctions will be put in place for failures by both the bus operator but also those that supply the related infrastructure such as bus shelters and real time information displays. There will also be a greater focus on our role as both the service owner and the Highways Authority responsible for the roads.
A current challenge to running a reliable bus service for operators has been driver shortage linked to both Coronavirus and industry recruitment shortages. In Kent Thameside this is particularly acute due to the proximity to London. KCC Fastrack has been giving advertising space to the Fastrack operators to promote posts. Furthermore, the 2023 Fastrack contract will require the successful operator to pay drivers a higher wage rate which matches the London rate. This will help to attract and maintain drivers who otherwise may have looked to work for London operators.
Fastrack belongs to the communities it serves, and as such we encourage you to report service issues and failings to us so we can look into and raise these on your behalf. Please email us at Info.Go-Fastrack@kent.gov.uk
Why can I not use the Fastrack busways with my car at The Bridge?
We understand that congestion locally is a significant issue and relates directly to the overflow of traffic from the M25 and Dartford Crossing which are managed by National Highways. While the Fastrack service has dedicated priority infrastructure, it also suffers from congestion which hinders service reliability and extends journey times.
National Highways alongside KCC Highways are working hard to address the core issues, with the Lower Thames Crossing for example just one project seeking to ease said congestion. This will be to the benefit of residents as well as the Fastrack network.
Fastrack is a Bus Rapid Transit service which forms a hybrid between bus and light rail, using segregated bus only roadways but with the flexibility to use conventional roads as well. This allows the service to deliver many of the benefits of light rail at a much lower cost. As the 2021 National Bus Strategy noted, ‘BRT could be a game-changer for bus networks’ but this is only the case when it has dedicated priority infrastructure.
This is the case for Fastrack which was constructed by design to provide a fast and unimpeded alternative to the car for local residents to help offset the local traffic constraints. Consequently, Fastrack is part of the cure locally, with the service accounting for 3 million passenger journeys a year. Journey times are critical to the future viability of the service. Without Fastrack, traffic conditions would only get worse locally, with or without residents being able to utilise the lanes.
Our resident sculpture artist William Jordan adds a fascinating new piece to The Bridge’s sculpture trail.
The piece named ‘Transition’ was originally commissioned by National Power and South East Arts as a representation about the energy of change and the productive tension of the new.
Oliver Barratt was the artist who originally designed the piece, but we are in the process of restoring this magnificent work of art back to its former glory.
As part of our commitment to sustainability and a greener future, we now have two EV charging points available at The Bridge for public use. Provided by NewMotion, they have over 150,000 public charge points across the UK and Europe.
The Learning and Community Campus at The Bridge sits at the heart of the community providing an inspirational learning environment and child and adult social services facilities.
There is an active youth centre on campus which offers lots of fun activities for young people aged 12-19 including, arts, drama, music, bands and much more.
There is also Cambria Sea Scouts who have Beaver, Cubs, Scouts and Explorers sections and provide adventurous activities for boys and girls from age 6 to 18.
We are continuing to recruit for Warehouse Operatives and have recently introduced a £1,000 bonus on completion of 12 week probation.Find out more
The Bridge works closely with Healthy Living Centre Dartford, a friendly, community-led charity providing opportunities to improve health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities in Dartford.More Info