Community bus service takes over threatened route
PUBLISHED: 12:41 11 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:50 12 March 2020
A bus service to Sudbury serving six villages which faced the axe has been saved after councillors and a community operator joined forces.
The 112 route, which runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays between Bildeston and Sudbury, was due to end on March 31 after Suffolk County Council decided not to renew its subsidy.
Pepople using the service and without access to private transport faced the prospect of being marooned or paying for a taxi to get to the town, but now independent community minibus operator GoStart, which runs minibuses with volunteer drivers in and around Sudbury, has stepped in to provide 16 seater minibuses running the same route at the same time on the same days.
The new service is being supported by three local councillors - Suffolk county councillors Robert Lindsay and Jack Owen, who are both contributing to costs from their individual locality budgets, and Bryn Hurren of Babergh District Council has been helping coordinate between the parties.
John Philips, chair of the board of trustees of GoStart, said: 'I'm pleased to say that we have obtained confirmation from traffic commissioners that route 112 can continue to operate from 1st April using a 16-seater bus operated by GoStart.
'This is nothing if not a community initiative, and I hope it will be supported by the community.'
The new 112 route will run from Bildeston, via Chelsworth, Monks Eleigh, Brent Eleigh, Little Waldingfield and Great Waldingfield to Sudbury bus station on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, returning early afternoon.
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Mr Lindsay said: 'This is great news. Those of us who live in isolated villages know that the passengers on this bus have no other options for getting to town.
'I've met the passengers when riding the bus. Many are disabled, elderly or simply can't afford to drive.'
Mr Hurren said he was delighted the service was going ahead: 'It just shows what a little bit of local determination can do, when people put their minds to it.
'We're very grateful to GoStart for taking this on and I hope passengers in my patch will now support the bus by using it.'
Mr Owen added: 'I'm happy to contribute financially to kick start this service, since it brings people into Sudbury on market day and so benefits the market and town, as well as the passengers. We need to support bus services wherever we can.'
Suffolk County Council announced last July it was pulling the subsidy on 23 services, a move which will save around £340,000.
The 112 service had been scheduled to run under its previous operator, Suffolk Norse, but the company had terminated the contact early, it said.
Councillor Andrew Reid, Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Rural Affairs, said: 'Working with the community, providers and other stakeholders, it was our ambition to find a long term solution to keep the service running.
'Unfortunately, no solution was found for the 112 bus service and, as a result, the contract was due to expire in June 2020.
'A decreasing budget paired with some operators choosing to withdraw services as a result of commercial decisions has created a lot of uncertainty for passengers. We have not given up on finding solutions for rural communities and are still working hard to find long term solutions for rural transport across Suffolk.'