Talks to save vital bus service

By David LennardRESIDENTS and public transport groups are opposing cuts to bus services in the Halesworth and Southwold area.The First bus company has announced changes to its 99 service that operates between Lowestoft, Southwold and Halesworth.

By David Lennard

RESIDENTS and public transport groups are opposing cuts to bus services in the Halesworth and Southwold area.

The First bus company has announced changes to its 99 service that operates between Lowestoft, Southwold and Halesworth.

They will come into force from the end of next month and will see a reduction in the frequency of services between Halesworth and Southwold.


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Under the new timetable, the revised 99 service will operate from May 30 every 30 minutes on Mondays to Saturdays between Lowestoft and Kessingland and continuing hourly to Southwold.

However, there will only be a “limited” service continuing to Halesworth on Mondays to Fridays and there will no longer be a bus connection with each weekday train calling at the town's rail station.

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Since the cuts were announced, a survey was carried out by Wenhaston Parish Council to see what kind of bus service was needed by residents living in the Halesworth area.

Wenhaston parish clerk Maureen Hodges said the survey had revealed that people living in rural areas relied on public transport.

“There are no shops in Wenhaston, apart from our community post office, so people have to travel outside the village on a regular basis. Not everyone has a car and many residents in the Blyth Valley area rely on public transport,” she added.

Mrs Hodges said the reponse to the survey had been extremely positive with many people saying they would use the buses if they were run at more convenient times.

She added when the service was cut, it would no longer be possible for students in Wenhaston or nearby villages to travel to and from either Lowestoft College or Suffolk College in Ipswich.

The results of the survey are being passed on to Suffolk County Council and residents hoped a new company could be found to take over the routes being cut by First.

The link between bus services and trains using the east Suffolk line between Ipswich and Lowestoft is seen as a major factor in attracting more people to use public transport.

The East Suffolk Travellers' Association is among the groups concerned at the changes to the 99 bus service.

It said the number of buses operating in the Halesworth and Southwold area would be “considerably reduced”, resulting in a much poorer service for people living in Holton, Wenhaston and Blythburgh.

Members also feared the journey time between Lowestoft and Southwold will be increased by 20 minutes as buses would be diverted off the current direct route and there was likely to be more overcrowding during the evening peak time as one bus has been cut from the timetable.

Association chairman, Trevor Garrod, said: “We expect bus operators and the county council to co-operate to ensure there is an attractive bus service, with good connections at rail stations, for this area.”

Suffolk County Council is currently looking into a possible replacement service to cover as much of the withdrawn sections of the route as possible.

Mitchell Bradshaw, public transport manager with the county council, said: “This will have to go through our regular tendering process, but we hope to have information of these journeys available mid-May.”

Philip Seago, operations and commercial director for First Eastern Counties, said: “Service 99, operating between Halesworth and Southwold, will be reduced in frequency as from May 30.

“However, Suffolk County Council are planning to retain a service level for this section broadly in line with the existing timetable. Frequency will be comparable and connection facilities at Halesworth with many of the train journeys will be retained.”

david.lennard@eadt.co.uk

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