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Will your journey change as bus services in rural Suffolk set for new contract?

PUBLISHED: 07:30 13 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:55 13 August 2019

A Galloways bus at the Ipswich Bus Station. Picture: PAUL GEATER

A Galloways bus at the Ipswich Bus Station. Picture: PAUL GEATER

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Bus services to villages in the Mid Suffolk area could be facing a major shake-up in October after Galloways told the county council that it plans to withdraw from its local bus contracts.

Galloways will be ceasing three services (routes 87, 377, and 386) as part of the county council's shake-up of rural bus services. The 118/119 services to Framlingham are due to finish at the start of November.

Now it has told the county that it will be withdrawing from the 112, 113, 114, 115, and 116 services from Ipswich to Diss, Eye, Mendlesham and Debenham on October 18.

The county had not said these services were at risk - so they will be put out to tender and it is hoped that they will continue to operate in a similar way to what is happening now.

Galloways director Bill Hiron said his company would be bidding for the contracts again - and suggested it was a "housekeeping" measure. The contracts had been due to be renegotiated in 2020.

He said: "We have already got these changes to some services coming in, and to avoid uncertainty twice in two years we have decided to bring things forward so they can all be dealt with at the same time."

There was anger on these routes two years ago when some services were changed leaving villages without a bus - but these changes were reversed within two weeks.

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Green councillor for Mendlesham - one of the communities served by the buses - Andrew Stringer said: "This is a matter of concern. There are people who rely on buses for a number of reasons, and this kind of uncertainty is very worrying."

A spokeswoman for the county council said: "These routes will be tendered out shortly and whilst there may be some changes, we intend to stay as close to existing routes as possible.

"Most passengers will not be impacted as the new tender will commence the day after the current one end. This is a good opportunity to try and integrate some of the other bus services which are currently under review."

Jack Owen, Labour spokesperson for Highways, Transport and Rural Affairs, said: "Given the recent history of Suffolk's rural bus services, you cannot help but be concerned about what this announcement will mean for residents in our county."

"The last decade has seen the Tories slash bus subsidies by 60% and within the last few months we have seen yet more cuts and more routes lost.

"The early withdrawal from these crucially important routes only adds to the uncertainty. Will this mean fewer or reduced routes? Will drivers lose their jobs?

"I am really worried that we are seeing the slow death of rural bus services in Suffolk. There is a real fear that, in a few years' time, they might be close to extinct if urgent action is not taken."

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