Bus driver's concerns over changes to rural routes
PUBLISHED: 15:56 28 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:56 28 August 2019
A Suffolk bus driver has criticised plans to make changes to bus routes in rural areas.
In a letter to this newspaper, bus driver Graham Butler criticised the treatment of passengers living in villages along some of Suffolk's more rural routes.
Suffolk County Council is currently considering the future of over 20 bus routes in and around the county which could see some services cut.
In his letter Mr Butler raises concerns over the future of the 111 route, run by Ipswich Buses between Ipswich and Bildeston - a route he has driven on and off for the past 15 years.
"The council will tell you that the 111 has been picking up fewer and fewer passengers for the past few years, but this is only half the story," said Mr Butler.
"Six years ago, I would bring in a three-quarters full bus on the 7.15am service from Hitcham and full bus on the 9.40am service from Hitcham."
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One reason Mr Butler gives for potential changes in the amount of bus users is the number of road closures experienced in these areas.
"I have been a bus driver on this route off and on for about 15 years, so I know about the difficulties faced by people in various villages, but especially Willisham, Offton, Somersham and Little Blakenham when the road is closed for whatever reason," said Mr Butler.
"There used to be quite a number of commuters (that could drive and had cars) that used this service but with increasing, both announced and unannounced, closures of roads with no alternatives having taken place those numbers have dwindled.
"You can't expect people to find an alternative like a car then go back using a bus when they don't know if it is going to stop running again."
A spokesman for Suffolk Highways said: "We appreciate that there have been a number of works taking place in this area over the course of the last month, which will cause an element of disruption and inconvenience.
"Our teams regularly liaise with passenger transport and the bus operators during any works that affect their routes, as well as updating them when things change, due to issues such as weather."
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council confirmed that the 111 bus route would not be ending and that it would be either extended or retendered.