Anger as bus services face axe

POLITICIANS and passengers voiced their anger last night after it emerged a major shake-up of bus services in Suffolk would see some services axed and ticket prices increased.

POLITICIANS and passengers voiced their anger last night after it emerged a major shake-up of bus services in Suffolk would see some services axed and ticket prices increased.

First Group, which operates commercial services on the main corridors into Ipswich, is revising routes to reduce costs. At the same time, some ticket prices are set to be increased because of the worldwide rise in fuel prices.

The major changes in services will be felt by travellers from Framlingham and Aldeburgh whose services to Ipswich railway station have been axed - instead they will be dropped off in the town centre. Also withdrawn are the direct Bury St Edmunds to Ipswich service via Stowmarket and the Ipswich to Colchester route via Stratford St Mary.

Suffolk County Council last night announced that as a result of First's decision to curtail routes in Ipswich, it would bring forward to the autumn plans to run a free shuttle bus, jointly sponsored by rail operator One, from Ipswich railway station to the town centre.


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A number of routes this year have been plagued by services either running late or buses not operating at all - a situation which First Group claims will be improved by the changes which come into effect on August 28.

The company acknowledges there has been "a period of unreliability brought about by difficulties in staff recruitment in operational and engineering disciplines."

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Keith Andrews, managing director of First, said: "It has become necessary to refocus our business in the Ipswich area by concentrating on core services and reducing marginal routes and contracts.

"These actions will lead to enhanced reliability in all our business functions and return us to the high operational standards our customers demand."

Difficulties recruiting depot staff at Ipswich have meant replacements being drafted in from Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth while the company's out-stations are described as "inadequate" and no longer comply with Health and Safety requirements.

Journeys from Aldeburgh and Framlingham via Woodbridge will now terminate in the town centre rather than the railway station, a decision described by Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer as "ludicrous".

He added: "How on earth can we get people to use public transport when they cannot reach the railway station? Trains and buses have to be integrated to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

"A large number of my constituents, most of them elderly, have made conscious decisions to no longer use their cars. They need through bus services - and that particularly applies to Aldeburgh."

Trevor Garrod, chairman of the East Suffolk Travellers' Association, is to protest to the Commission for Integrated Transport and Traffic Commissioners to protest at the plans, pointing out it's Government policy to encourage buses to link with trains.

Mr Garrod said First's decision "will reduce journey opportunities both for commuters and leisure users."

Tim Yeo, Suffolk South MP, said the Ipswich to Colchester through bus services provided a lifeline for the residents of the Stour Valley to the two main towns in the area.

"It is very worrying that the withdrawal of the route is not due to lack of usage but has been blamed on staff shortages. I hope the decision is not irreversible - a rural county like Suffolk is dependent on passenger transport."

The county council said last night that in addition to the new Ipswich town centre shuttle, it had decided to subsidise a replacement service 384 between Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket and a new Stour Valley route 93 linking Stratford St Mary, Holton St Mary, and East Bergholt.

Meanwhile, bus fares on First services are set to rise from August 14 because of an increase in worldwide fuel prices.

Although the increases vary depending on the type of ticket, the announcement means day passes in Ipswich will cost an extra 70p while weekly passes will cost £1.50 more. However, the single walk-on fare in the town will remain at £1.

MAJOR ROUTE CHANGES

n Service 64 Ipswich-Aldeburgh re-routed in Woodbridge via Peterhouse Crescent and Bredfield Road estates and no longer serves Ipswich railway station.

n 64A Ipswich-Framlingham renumbered 63, re-routed in Woodbridge and no longer serves Ipswich railway station.

n 65 Ipswich-Aldeburgh to terminate at Rendlesham. The 63-64-65 will provide off-peak 20 minute and peak period 10-minute frequencies between Ipswich and Melton

n 66X peak hour Ipswich-Martlesham re-routed from Woodbridge Road corridor to Foxhall Road.

n 86 Ipswich to Bury St Edmunds withdrawn. Replaced by a 30 minute timetable on 87 from Ipswich to Stowupland and new 384 Suffolk county council contracted service Stowmarket to Bury,

n 93/94 Ipswich-Colchester/Hadleigh will operate Ipswich-Capel St Mary only, county council will sponsor service 93 to serve Stratford St Mary, Holton St Mary and East Bergholt.

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