Bus users falling in Suffolk

THE number of people travelling by bus in Suffolk is on the decline, which is hitting the county council's ability to meet its target of reducing car usage for work and pleasure.

By Graham Dines

THE number of people travelling by bus in Suffolk is on the decline, which is hitting the county council's ability to meet its target of reducing car usage for work and pleasure.

Even when park-and-ride journeys are included in the figures, there was a decline of 500,000 passengers last year. There were 17.8 million journeys the previous year.

Julian Swainson, the portfolio holder for environment and transport, insisted at yesterday's meeting of Suffolk County Council that the 1.4% decline in passengers compared favourably with the 2% average for the six counties of the eastern region.


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But without the success of the two established Ipswich park-and-ride schemes at Copdock and Norwich Road, Suffolk's green agenda would have been in trouble and Tory councillor Rae Leighton said the overall decline "proves the failure of the council's administration to increase use of bus transport."

Mr Swainson said that 88% of bus services in Suffolk were provided by commercial operators over which the county council had no control.

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"A number of routes have been withdrawn over the past three years, especially in rural areas, and although we have stepped in to subsidise a minimum level of service, this has been one of the reasons bus travel has declined in Suffolk."

He said the council was in talks with the commercial sector to try to stimulate growth in passenger transport over the next 18 months. "However, we are still hampered by the 1985 Bus Deregulation Act. With the exception of London, which was excluded from the legislation, the rest of the country has witnessed a decline in usage as commercial considerations have taken over from the need to maintain socially necessary routes."

When Mr Leighton criticised the "apparent failure" and low take-up of the third Ipswich park-and-ride site at Martlesham, Mr Swainson said it took time for a new service to kick in. He accused the East Anglian Daily Times – which yesterday highlighted the poor level of patronage – of "trying to cause trouble."

n More than 1,000 county council employees are to be offered a personalised travel planning service to help them find the best way to get to work. It is just one of a range of measures to persuade staff to switch from driving cars to public transport, walking and cycling.

As the council is preparing to move its headquarters from county hall to Endeavour House on the other side of Ipswich town centre, it hopes its green travel plan will encourage other employers in the county to urge staff to leave their cars at home.

Lucy Robinson, director of transport and environment, said the Endeavour House travel plan "will also contribute to raising the profile of sustainable travel alternatives for councillors, staff and the public."

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