Community faces isolation as bus route set to be withdrawn

PUBLISHED: 09:00 25 September 2013

First is withdrawing is route to Stowupland.

First is withdrawing is route to Stowupland.

One of the largest communities in mid-Suffolk faces losing its bus link after First Eastern Counties announced it planned to withdraw its service.

Stowupland, with a population of almost 1,800, could be left without a regular service after the bus company announced it could no longer run the Route 87 service on a commercial basis. It is due to be withdrawn in November.

It hopes that the county council will step in to offer a subsidy to continue running the route – but the county’s transport spokesman warned that any extra subsidy there could have to come from routes that it already supports.

The announcement came as First confirmed it is joining other bus operators in accepting the county’s new Endeavour Card which will offer discounted travel to 16 to 19-year-olds travelling to college or apprenticeships.

The card will be introduced on October 1 and is a scaled-down replacement for the Explore Card which was scrapped in the budget cuts of 2011.

It will offer holders a discount of 25% on their journeys to work or college, and will be in the form of an “Oyster-style” card.

Operators that have so far signed up to the scheme include Ipswich Buses, Galloway Coach Services, Stephensons, Carters, Suffolk Norse, Anglian Bus and First Eastern Counties.

Graham Newman, the council’s cabinet member for transport said: “16-19 year olds in Suffolk can now apply for a free Endeavour Card and I’d urge them to sign up now and start saving money.

“Most importantly of all, the Endeavour Card will help to remove transport barriers to college, training and work.”

The Route 87 service is an extension to the Route 88 service that links Ipswich with Stowmarket through Needham Market.

Mr Newman was disappointed at First’s decision, especially as the company is opening a new front in its “bus wars” in Ipswich.

He said: “We have now got competition on routes where there was already a good service, and no buses at all on routes that badly need them.”

First has said it hopes to talk to the county about supporting services in the Stowupland area – but Mr Newman said there was only limited cash available and any support there would come from other badly-needed routes.

He hoped another operator might step in to provide a service to Stowupland on a commercial basis.

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