Traffic Gridlock and Polluted Air Set to Continue After “Disappointing” Bus Review

A new bus timetable comes into effect on April 2nd but there’s disappointment that there will be no improvement in the sparse service at peak times, suggesting that car drivers will continue to clog up the A26 and pollute Southborough’s air for the forseeable future.

There had been hopes that a more frequent peak time service would tempt more commuters heading for Tonbridge station to take the bus and also persuade parents using their cars on the daily school run between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells to send their children by bus instead.

However, a review by the Arriva bus company of the service from Tunbridge Wells to Tonbridge actually seems to have resulted in a less frequent peak service than before.


The bus service from 7.32am to 8.32am from Southborough still consists of just 2 buses to Tonbridge – just one every half hour. The total of morning services up to 9am is cut from 16 to 13. Arriva says its changes: “are designed to improve reliability but also include improved Sunday services”.

One passenger recently told Southborough News that the existing poor service around 8am was “outrageous” and frequently made her late for work and schoolchildren late for school.  She said: “Two buses drove straight past me because there was no more room on them – I waited 40 minutes to get the morning bus to Tonbridge.”

Bus inside v3

The packed inside of one of the peak time bus services is shown above approaching Southborough Fountain stop around 7.45am, with little room for more passengers.

During term time, two school buses also currently take on regular passengers at Southborough just before 7.30am, but one of those services has been cancelled. The 581 bus to Hugh Christie – which did start in High Brooms – will cease.

Now at 5am Future at 5am
20-39 0528, 0532 0531
40-59 0547, 0554 0554
Now at 6am Future at 6am
0-19 0613 0605
20-39 0623, 0632, 0639 0631, 0639
40-59 0653, 0657 0645, 0650
Now at 7am Future at 7am
0-19 0717 0714
20-39 0725, (0730h) 0725, 0731, (0739h)
40-59 0743 0753
Now at 8am Future at 8am
0-19 None 0810
20-39 0821 0835
40-59 0844, 0854 None

Key: Time in bold is route 7 to Maidstone; others are 402 to Dunton Green (italics to Bromley)
h – Hugh Christie bus only runs during school days

UPDATE 29th March: After receiving full timetables from Arriva, I found one extra service at 0645.  However, the new information still suggests scheduled gaps of:
25 mins from 0650 to 0714,
22 mins from 0731 to 0753,
23 mins from 0753 to 0810 and
25 mins from 0810 to 0835.

The sparse service at school and commuting rush hour contrasts with a far better service during the daytime. Southborough News has requested an explanation from Arriva.

On Mondays to Saturdays, the daytime service after 9am will continue to run on average every 8 minutes from Southborough to Tonbridge. Every hour, 3 buses will be heading to Sevenoaks and 3 to Maidstone with 1 to Bromley.

On Sundays, there will be an increase to 2 buses an hour between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells town centres via Southborough. Currently there is just one bus every hour on Sunday. Also on Sundays, the 281 between High Brooms, Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall will be increased to run every 20 minutes.

Other changes include:

  • On the 7 Maidstone route, the evening service on Mondays to Saturdays will be improved to run later, with last departures from Maidstone at 2210 hours and from Tunbridge Wells at 2226.
  • On the 402 service, the through service from Tunbridge Wells to Bromley will continue to run hourly on Mondays to Saturdays but to revised times and buses will run via Weald village instead of via River Hill.

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