Delight as ‘vital’ rural bus route saved from chop

First Buses are to take on the 71 route Picture: PAUL GEATER

First Buses are to take on the 71 route Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

A rural bus route which was facing the axe has been saved, to the delight of Suffolk villagers.

The 71 service was one of 23 routes considered under threat by the council after the subsidy was pulled for the service.

Suffolk County Council said at the time that it would be holding talks with bus operators to try and secure some of the routes for the future.

It has now been revealed that the 71 will return in an amended form under First Buses.

The new 71 will serve a number of rural villages including Orford, Butley, Capel St Andrew, Boyton, Hollesley and Sutton Heath before stopping at Melton, Woodbridge and Martlesham where customers will be able to get connecting buses to Ipswich.

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A spokesman for Hollesley Parish Council said: "We are really pleased. Students use the service to get to Ipswich and it's also used by people working in Woodbridge and Melton.

"It means that some people can have one car rather than two.

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"We will promote it to villagers, even if they can use it only once a week."

She said that there was also potential for the service to benefit other villages not served on the route, suggesting that drivers could park up in Sutton Heath before taking the bus for the rest of their journey, in a 'park and ride' style manner.

There will be a short delay in the new service coming into use with the new First service set to begin on November 18.

Paul Martin, commercial manager at First Ipswich said: "We have been working closely with Suffolk County Council to make some slight alterations to some of our contracted services, which has allowed us to provide these vital journeys. "We both recognised that the withdrawal of service 71 left residents in these villages with no public transport options at all, something we were both keen to avoid.

"We have already started engaging with the respective parish councils to publicise the service and would like to thank both Hollesley and Sutton Heath parish councils for their support through this process."

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: "We are delighted to have been able to work with First to reinstate this service.

"Using data of passenger numbers on other routes they operate under contract for us we have been able to identify where resources should be best directed.

"This is a good example of how the county council is working with operators to find solutions within the constraints of public money. We are continuing our conversations with operators and local communities and are dedicated to seeking solutions like this for other services."

"To make the 71 service a viable long-term option residents need to use the service as regularly as possible."

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