Campaigners criticise axing of Gatwick nightbus

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Campaigners have criticised Metrobus for axing a budget nightly service which connects East Grinstead to Gatwick.

A statement from transport campaign groups said the EarlyBird 380 route will stop on April 22.

The twice-nightly service has linked Hastings, Bexhill and East Grinstead with Gatwick when trains were not running. The northbound route was introduced in mid 2015 with southbound buses added in November.

Martin Woodfine, of St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement, said: “Hindsight is a marvellous tool, but the lack of promotion by the operators, a routing which by-passed population catchment areas, and unclear signage at the airport are all significant contributory factors to the failure of the service.”

Richard Madge, of Bexhill Rail Action Group, added: “We thank the operators for giving it a go, but any service that provided a link to Gatwick but which did not serve central Bexhill was always going to be be difficult to sustain.

“The need for such a service clearly remains and it must be hoped that lessons can be learned to establish a viable service in the future, potentially limited-stop via Polegate, Lewes and Falmer.

“It would need to mirror the rail line catchment more closely and be heavily promoted by the operators to complement the rail service during overnight down-time.”

Ray Chapman, of East Sussex Rail Alliance, added: “A lot of background work went into this venture and we regret its failure. We will continue to work with all interested parties to gain experience that will hopefully lead to a better service provision in the future.”

A spokeswoman for Metrobus said: “We’ve been working with Gatwick Airport to provide these early morning journeys since last Spring but despite lots of local support and promotion, the numbers of people using the service has continued to be very low.

“Unfortunately we cannot continue to operate the service at a significant loss.

“The last day of operation will be 22nd April. We would like to thank everyone who supported this initiative.”

A Gatwick spokesman said: “We share the disappointment of the local community and the operator that despite Gatwick’s efforts to support this service, low levels of usage mean it is no longer commercially viable.

“Gatwick is committed to working with community groups and bus operators to look at the reasons for this and we are open to exploring future opportunities for late night bus services that best serve the needs of the local community, while continuing to support other public transport services.”

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