Suffolk pensioners “lose” free bus in Sudbury timetable shake-up
- Credit: Archant
A Suffolk bus operator has been accused of subconscious ageism after re-timing a popular service so it can no longer offer free trips to bus-pass holders.
Beeston's run the Number 91 service from Sudbury to Ipswich. The first off-peak service currently leaves Sudbury at 9.45am. From next month it will leave at 9.15am - but bus passes can only be used after 9.30am. The next bus leaves Sudbury at 11.15am and does not reach Ipswich until 12.35 - meaning passengers will not arrive during the morning.
To save money, bus-pass passengers are being advised to get off the bus at Newton Green - 15 minutes into its journey - and get straight back on showing their pass in a bid to save £2 on the fare.
Labour transport spokesman at the county council Jack Owen is from Sudbury. He said: "I am really disappointed with the cuts to this important route. Currently, the 91 leaves Sudbury every 90 minutes, but these changes would mean that the gap between services would increase to every two hours.
"Beeston's have already replaced a local service between Sudbury and Great Cornard and local people are really angry about it - this is another kick in the teeth.
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"I'm sure they haven't meant to do it deliberately, but in changing the start of the timetable to 9.15am, they are discriminating against older people whose bus pass isn't eligible until after 9.30am.
"Under these new plans, people in Sudbury and Great Cornard won't be able to use their pass until the next bus at 11.15am - they then wouldn't reach Ipswich until 12.35pm. Consequently, people needing to reach our county town in the morning may no longer be able to do so."
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Beeston's say the change was made for operational reasons. Managing director Philip Munson said: "There has been a lot of recent press regarding insufficient funding for both local bus services and school transport which has led to widespread cuts.
"Our timetable changes have been made to accommodate all bus users. We do not target any generation and have tried to provide a service with the resources available.
"Beeston's currently has no plans to withdraw the 91 service and any changes are always carefully monitored. Unfortunately, there will always be a small minority of passengers who are affected by any changes.
"We do not set the rules for the timings aloud to use concessionary passes - this is something which is beyond our control.
"For our Sudbury Concessionary bus pass users, we would suggest that if they needed to travel on the 09.15, a ticket could be purchased to Newton Green and then use their free concessionary bus pass for the onward journey."
A single ticket from Sudbury to Newton Green costs £3.50, a single from Sudbury to Ipswich costs £5.50.
Mr Owen said: "Passengers could be forced to get a cheaper ticket to Newton Green, hop off and on again, so they can then take advantage of their bus pass for the rest of their journey. Not only would this be massively inconvenient, but it would still cost bus pass holders £3.50 per journey. I think that is totally wrong.
"I hope Beeston's revisit their plans as this is clearly not sustainable or practical."