Bus trips in Suffolk fell by two thirds during Covid pandemic

Near empty bus in Ipswich

The number of bus passengers fell by more than two thirds during the pandemic. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Bus use across the region fell by more than two thirds over the last year due to Covid lockdowns and government advice to avoid public transport if possible.

Official figures from the Department for Transport showed that bus usage in Suffolk fell by 70%. There were 4.7m bus journeys in Suffolk in 2020/21 compared with 15.5m the previous year.

The falls in Norfolk and Essex were very similar - passenger numbers fell by 70% and 69% respectively.

The drop across the whole country was a slightly smaller figure, 61%. That is largely because bus passenger numbers are much higher in urban areas than in shire counties.

More people rely on buses to get to work in large cities. In London every resident made an average of 95 bus journeys a year in 2020/21, down from 233 the previous year. In Suffolk the average resident made 6.2 journeys a year, down from 20.3 in 2019/20.

The number of bus journeys made in Suffolk per head of population is significantly less than its neighbours - as it had been before the pandemic hit.

Compared with the Suffolk's 6.2 journeys per head of population last year, in Norfolk there were 9.1 journeys. in Cambridgeshire 8.9 journeys and in Essex 8.4 trips.

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The previous year when there were 20.3 journeys per head in Suffolk, Norfolk residents made 30.5 trips per head, Cambridgeshire people made 29.6 trips, and in Essex the figure was 26.9 trips per head.

Suffolk is now bidding for £50m from the government's Bus Back Better Fund to improve bus services and make it a more attractive option for people to get about the county.

The county council is hoping to get the money to simplify bus travel, introduce new bus priority measures in some of the larger towns and possibly to improve park and ride provision.

But there has been criticism of the county's approach to bus services in the past - earlier this year Ipswich Buses general manager Stephen Bryce said Suffolk was 20 years behind many other authorities with the level of support it offered the industry.