Suffolk: Bus services saved in countywide deal
BUS services to communities across Suffolk are looking more secure after operators were persuaded to run them on a commercial basis.
However question marks still remain over other services – particularly to towns and villages in Mid Suffolk.
There were fears for scores of bus services after Suffolk County Council published plans to slash public transport subsidies.
During the next financial year, the amount spent on subsidising public transport services is being cut from �4.3million to just over �2m.
This prompted fears of widespread service cuts, but now the county has agreed with operators that several services which had received a subsidy will now be operated on a commercial basis – with no council help.
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By removing the subsidies from these services, there should be more money available to subsidise other routes, although there is still concern that some could be withdrawn as a result of the spending cuts.
Among those bus routes under threat were those from Diss to Bury and to Ipswich – routes which passed through the market towns of Eye and Debenham.
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A spokesman for the county council said these bus services would survive, although with slightly fewer journeys each day.
He said: “On one route in that area we are looking at dropping from five return trips a day to four. It is not as good as at present, but we are able to maintain a service to those communities.”
Details of new timetables across the county would be published within the next few months once negotiations had been completed with operators.
Guy McGregor, Suffolk county councillor with responsibility for roads, said: “I’m delighted that despite these difficult financial times, the county has been able to find genuinely workable solutions that mean that Suffolk’s services can continue to operate and meet the needs of bus users.
“Our public transport team has worked hard over the past five years to make bus services commercially viable.
“By supporting the bus companies to build on and improve local services, we’ve secured their future and reduced the cost to the taxpayer.”
Liberal Democrat transport spokeswoman Caroline Page welcomed the fact that some buses seemed likely to be saved – but warned that without proper thought and publicity services could wither and die.
She said: “It is good that some can now be run commercially and that others can be reworked to carry on running, but people need to know when and where they run – and they need to serve routes that people want to use.”
She remains irritated that services in the Woodbridge area, which she represents, have been cut.
“Buses need to operate outside the normal working hours if they are to provide a service that people can use – if you have a good network then they will be well used but people have to know when the buses will run,” she added.
Routes which will now be run commercially:
n Bury St Edmunds to Stowmarket – service now operated by Galloways European;
n Ipswich to Colchester/South Suffolk – area services now operated by Carters Coach Services;
n Bury St Edmunds to Haverhill – services now operated by Burtons Coaches;
n Ipswich to Bildeston – service 111 is now operated by Beestons of Hadleigh;
n Bury St Edmunds to Clare – service now operated by Chambers & Sons;
n Brandon to Bury St Edmunds – the service is now being operated by Coach Services of Thetford; n Bury St Edmunds to Mildenhall – service to be operated by Burtons Coaches and Mulleys Motorways from April.