The £2 bus fare cap is upon us
Plus Medway Hospital's critical incident, creating a better Chatham, and a very out of place building in Rochester
A slightly briefer edition than usual as it’s the final one of the year and news has gone a little bit quiet this week. As ever, thanks so much for being here. 2023 is going to be a big year for Medway, and we’re thrilled to be here writing about it all.
The £2 bus fare cap is upon us
The state of Medway’s bus services is a recurring theme in this newsletter. The network map isn’t up to standard, services are often unreliable, and the main operator (Arriva) has been beset by strikes through the autumn.
Some good news this week though with the final announcement on which bus operators will take part in a new government initiative to get people onto the bus in the coming months. The government is working with operators to subsidise all bus journeys at £2 each between January and March, no matter how far you might be travelling. Which will sound like quite the bargain if you’ve paid for a bus fare in Medway in the past few years.
Of course, there are limits to this, and sadly it doesn’t include all operators. There was a brief panic when the first press release came out as it didn’t include Arriva, who have sewn up nearly all of the local services here. Thankfully, the next day brought an updated version which did include Arriva, so all is right in the world again.
A closer look at the full list on the government website for the scheme suggests all Arriva services in Medway will be covered by this with the exception of school services. Which does mean you’ll be able to visit far-flung exotic locales like Bluewater or Maidstone in the height of winter for only £2!
So, who else is on board?
Chalkwell is taking part in the scheme across all of its services. They only operate two routes between Chatham and Sittingbourne, but it is exciting news for those planning a day trip to our neighbours in the east.
Unfortunately, the rest of Medway’s smaller operators don’t appear to be taking part. Nu-Venture, ASD, and Farleigh all operate routes in Medway, but will not be offering £2 fares. This is a shame as Nu-Venture has increasingly become the alternative to Arriva in recent years, often running the less financially viable services to more disconnected communities.
Still, it’s hard to complain too much about something that will help a lot of people, if only for a few months. Our buses increasingly feel like they are operating through a period of managed decline as passenger numbers drop and services continue to be cut. Hopefully, this new initiative can get more people back onto the bus and start to turn that around.
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Hospital declares critical incident
It’s no secret that NHS services are under severe strain at the moment. Between continued lack of funding, a shortage of staff, ongoing strikes, and a population pretending we aren’t in a pandemic, health care feels ever closer to breaking point.
Following ambulance staff striking on Wednesday, Medway Hospital declared a ‘critical incident’ on Thursday as a result of increased pressure on A&E. Medway’s emergency department faces significant challenges even on normal days, but a critical incident being declared represents a new and worrying escalation in our ability to rely on local health care.
Declaring a critical incident allows a hospital to redirect resources towards essential emergency care, but this comes at a cost in the form of rescheduling outpatient appointments and non-urgent operations. Which is entirely understandable under the circumstances, but also potentially harmful for some patients who are already facing extended waiting list times for their conditions.
With a government seemingly uninterested in addressing the concerns of NHS staff, and no further resources heading to Medway Hospital in the near future, it seems likely that we’ll be seeing more such incidents in the coming months.
Covid in numbers
Cases: There are still no specific data, but 2.1% of the population in the south east are estimated to test positive for coronavirus this week, up from 1.9% last week.
Hospitalisations: There are currently 27 patients being treated for covid in Medway Hospital, with 1 of them on a ventilator. This is down 18% on last week.
Deaths: No new deaths were recorded this week, keeping Medway at 999 covid deaths in total.
Vaccinations: 80% of the 12+ population in Medway have now had at least one vaccine dose, 77% have had two doses, and 60% have received a booster dose.
77% of those eligible for a spring booster received one.
10% of those under 12 have had at least one dose of the vaccine.
64% of those aged 50+ have so far had their autumn booster.
It is worth noting that autumn booster numbers have effectively plateaued in Medway, with good uptake among the over-65 age group, but rather lacking in the 50-65 group, where as little as 41% of so far come forward for the latest dose.
Medway Council are developing a Design Code for Chatham to ensure that future development in the area fits in with a unified vision for the town centre. Which probably should have been done years ago, but here we are.
Anyway, they are working with Create Streets, an organisation that is a strong proponent of ‘gentle density’ and creating beautiful, liveable places. This is great news, as those would be a new concept for much of Chatham’s town centre.
You can take part in the consultation here. Click anywhere on the map of Chatham and fill in what you like or don’t like about the area. The town is rapidly changing, so anything that nudges the town towards a more liveable future can only be a good thing.
Sometimes it’s easy to assume the street scenes that we know have always been there without much change, particularly when thinking about the suburbs. So I was rather taken aback by this photo shared by Rochester photography guru Andrew Dennis this week.
I’m quite fascinated by this, and I’m sure several readers will be familiar with the tower and other such structures that used to exist throughout Medway. What was the planning thought behind this that led to a massive tower being thrown up in the middle of a sprawling post-war housing estate? It just looks so very out of place, particularly compared to the scene that exists on the site today.
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Gillingham Football Club is being taken over by a rich American guy. (Gillingham Football Club)
This will be the final Local Authority of 2022. New editions will resume for paid supporters on January 2, while the regular free Friday edition will be back on January 6. I hope you all have a restful holiday period, however you are spending it.
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If you hear about any Medway news that might be of interest, let me know! Hit reply to message me directly, DM me on Twitter, or leave a comment below.