Call made for better public transport

By David GreenA CALL has been made for improved public transport in north Suffolk following the success of a new scheme linking Southwold and Halesworth.

By David Green

A CALL has been made for improved public transport in north Suffolk following the success of a new scheme linking Southwold and Halesworth.

The East Suffolk Travellers' Association (ESTA), a public transport watchdog, believes the new integrated bus and rail system in the area was bringing benefits despite "teething problems".

It pledged to help build on its success and to press for a similar system for travellers in the Saxmundham, Leiston and Aldeburgh area.

The X99 Lowestoft to Ipswich bus route was axed in the autumn and has been partly replaced by an integrated system involving buses and the rail service from Halesworth.

Buses from Lowestoft pick up passengers from Southwold and several north Suffolk villages and get them to Halesworth in time to catch the train to Ipswich.

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The service, now known simply as 99, also works in reverse, picking up passengers at Halesworth Railway Station and taking them back to villages between there and Southwold and between the seaside town and Lowestoft.

Some problems have occurred with missed connections and roadworks on the A12 have sometimes delayed buses.

But the link-ups have generally succeeded and passengers have been able to buy "through" tickets – including the rail part of the journey – on the buses.

ESTA chairman Trevor Garrod said: "We have argued for of this kind of system for years and we want to do our best to make it work. In principle, we are fully behind Anglia Railways and First Bus and want to work with them to make it a success."

The group was in discussion with the two companies about ways of improving the reliability of the service. Anecdotal evidence suggested some bus drivers had not been properly trained to issue "through" tickets.

"When some people are calling for more money to be spent on roads, it is important to promote the public transport alternatives to the private car so that people have a real choice," said Mr Garrod.

He felt the new integrated service had not been well advertised at first and needed to be better promoted.

Anglian Railways and First Bus are now working on a joint leaflet, while ESTA is due to publish its own guide to the East Suffolk rail line and associated bus services in May and their links with visitor attractions such as the Long Shop Museum in Leiston and Snape Maltings.

Mr Garrod said the group would like to see a similar integrated system introduced for the Saxmundham, Leiston and Aldeburgh area.

Denise Carlo, secretary of Sustainable Transport Eastern Region, told a public meeting organised by ESTA at Oulton Broad at the weekend while there was a lot of uncertainty over national transport policy, "small and modest" initiatives could be successful at a local level.

There was no-one available to comment yesterday on behalf of First Bus.

n A 10-year plan to develop and improve one of East Anglia's major road links is being opened for public consultation.

Consultants for the Highways Agency have drawn up proposals for the route from Peterborough to Lowestoft, via Great Yarmouth, involving the A47 and A12 roads.

A series of exhibitions are being held along the route this week so residents can see the plans, ask questions and ensure their interests have been taken into account.

Consultants will then consider whether any changes to the strategy are needed before submitting their final report.

Highways Agency project manager Ranjit Mistry said: "It is important that local people come along and let us know what they think. We need everyone's comments on the proposals.

"Local people often know a great deal about local problems and have good ideas of what the solutions might be."

The exhibition is due to visit Lowestoft on Friday, at the junction of London Road North and the Marina, near the war memorial. Copies of the draft strategy can be seen at county libraries and at the offices of Waveney District Council.

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