Cash-strapped council rejects help for real-time bus information in east Suffolk

Pleas for “real time” information for bus passengers in east Suffolk have been rejected by a council finance chief as not being a priority when cuts are being made to services.

Town councillors in Leiston have been angered by reductions in the number of buses in the area, but felt a system of up-to-date information giving current expected arrival and departure times would help passengers waiting for transport.

Off-peak frequencies on both the 64 and 65 services in the Saxmundham, Leiston and Aldeburgh area have been reduced from hourly to two-hourly.

Councillor Mike Taylor said: “Part of the bargain for accepting these changes should be real-time information at bus stops – it should be the least we should accept.”

He understood buses were already fitted with the technology to supply information on their routes and timings and work was needed at bus stops to make it available to passengers on digital displays.

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Mr Taylor said: “What I want to know is how to we get the money for this work? How can we get this put into the county council’s budget?”

But Richard Smith, cabinet member for finance, said while real-time information might be desirable, such projects could not be afforded in the current financial climate.

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He told Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council: “There will be no money to spend on this project in the foreseeable future.

“I am afraid it is not a priority at the moment. I have to be honest with you. It is no use me saying I will go away and look at it or yes, I will try to provide some money, when I know there is no chance of that happening.

“I have to find £75million worth of savings and this sort of item will not be funded. I am sorry and I know that is not the answer people want but I want to tell you the truth about the situation.”

Councillors have voiced concerns about the cuts to bus services and in particular the reduced connectivity with rail services at Saxmundham – with some passengers now narrowly missing connections and facing a long wait for transport – and are seeking an immediate review. Rail group ESTA also expressed concern.

First Group has said around 100 people use the services per day, with the majority at peak times, with only a few off-peak passengers affected by the changes. The company needed to concentrate resources in the areas where buses are better used.

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