Help save under threat bus services, transport group urges
- Credit: Archant
Concerns have been raised over proposed changes to “important” bus services in east Suffolk.
Suffolk County Council announced last month that it would be removing subsidies on 23 services in a move which would save it around £340,000.
ESTA said it was particularly concerned with the proposed changes to the 62, 70, 71, 108 and 532 services which serve areas like Framlingham, Wickham Market, Sudbourne, Laxfield, Blundeston and Lound.
The association said the routes should be retained as they provided important services for commuters, shoppers and those visiting local hospitals.
Moreover ESTA urged that certain services be better integrated into the existing bus network and more widely publicised, such as the 108 service between Lowestoft and the James Paget University Hospital.
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The association also provided a number of other suggestions for changes to be made to certain routes to extend or re-route them to other villages where services may be withdrawn.
In a letter to Suffolk County Council, ESTA said: "It is important to have adequate and attractive services to Framlingham," which could be provided by extending the existing Ipswich to Woodbridge service 70, while certain buses on service 64 between Saxmundham and Woodbridge could be run via Snape, Tunstall and Campsea Ashe, where bus/train connections would also be possible.
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ESTA maintains, however, that "it is vital to retain an hourly link between Leiston and Saxmundham".
ESTA said that it also queried some of the county council's revenue figures, reporting that its own members have reported tickets not being checked or fares not being collected completely on some buses.
ESTA chairman Trevor Garrod said: "These bus links perform a useful role but in some cases they need to be better promoted.
"The operators should be encouraged to broaden their market so that they do not just serve essential users who have no reasonable alternative.
"We as a voluntary body are willing to help publicise the services."
Mary Evans, cabinet member for highways, transport and rural issues at Suffolk County Council, said: "We need to ensure we spend public money effectively.
"The subsidy per single ticket for the services 62 and 71 is £14.82. It is suggested this is not effective use of public money.
"The revenue figures, ticket sales and number of concessionary passes accepted is data provided directly from the operators.
"Bus services need to be financially viable or other sources of funding need to be obtained.
"We would support local community groups and partners to continue to encourage volunteer drivers to work with community transport to assist on journeys, such as the link between Leiston and Saxmundham.
"I recognise the importance of passenger transport and I remain committed to ensuring that Suffolk's residents have access to it.
"We welcome ESTA's offer to help publicise the services that continue."