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Funding bid lodged to help passengers affected by First bus re-routing

PUBLISHED: 18:03 09 January 2019 | UPDATED: 18:06 09 January 2019

The junction of Felixstowe Road and Nacton Road in Ipswich - diversions of First bus routes has left Felixstowe Road without a Sunday service Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

The junction of Felixstowe Road and Nacton Road in Ipswich - diversions of First bus routes has left Felixstowe Road without a Sunday service Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

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Passengers on a key route into Ipswich town centre could be handed a lifeline if plans to subsidise an axed bus route are approved next week.

Liz Harsantsaid she hoped the funding biod would be approved Picture: PAUL GEATERLiz Harsantsaid she hoped the funding biod would be approved Picture: PAUL GEATER

First re-routed its 76 and 77 services away from Felixstowe Road in the autumn, which left passengers with a 700m walk to their nearest stop and no Sunday cover at all.

It prompted a wave of public anger which resulted in a petition containing more than 400 signatures being handed to First in November.

Liz Harsant, Ipswich borough councillor for the Holywells ward had called for the former Number 4 service to return to ensure there was a Sunday service.

Now, a funding bid has been put forward to Ipswich Borough Council’s south east area committee next week to subsidise the return of a Number 4 service for the next 18 months.

Sarah Barber said it was a pilot, and would need frequent use in order to continue Picture: GREGG BROWNSarah Barber said it was a pilot, and would need frequent use in order to continue Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ms Harsant said: “I am hoping it will go through because it is a compromise in a way – we do need a bus on Sundays and I hope it will be used.

“It’s a main route through Ipswich. The Number 4 is going to be hourly but it’s going to be better than nothing at all.”

The funding request from the south east area committee is for £6,600 in 2019/20, with a further £3,300 in 2020/21.

A further request will go to the north east area committee later in the month for £6,600 over the 18 month period.

Regular passengers on the route had claimed there was only a minimum level of consultation with Suffolk County Council before the changes were introduced, with both the borough council and many locals not knowing about the changes until after they had been made.

There were also concerns over passengers who were older or struggled with mobility being able to make the 700m walk.

First said the decision to re-route the services via Spring Road was made because it was “under-used” in its previous guise, based on a nine month study of passengers’ travel patterns.

A spokesman had previously said that the Felixstowe Road area was “regularly only attracting a single number of people wanting to travel per day”.

South east area committee chairman Sarah Barber said: “I am hoping that it will go through.

“I am still disappointed that First have made the decision they have.

“I really hope the residents will be able to use this service because it is for a trial period.”

Councillor Phil Smart, who helped put the funding bid together, added: “Although primary responsibility for securing bus services lies with Suffolk County Council, it is Ipswich Borough Council who are taking the initiative in trying to help local residents who are upset at the loss of their bus service.

“Our powers are limited and in the case of provision along Lindbergh Road we are only able to use reasonable persuasion to see if First will adopt our proposal which uses the same resources as they are using at the moment but in a different way.

“In the case of Sunday services on Felixstowe road we are hoping to put together a funding package to secure an hourly service and look to Suffolk County Council to join us in achieving this.”

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