Government rejects Suffolk's bid to improve rural buses

Bus in Ipswich

Suffolk has missed out on funding to boost local bus services. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

The day after a bus boss said Suffolk County Council was 20 years behind the best local authorities for public transport planning in the country, the county has seen a bid for government cash for new on-demand bus services rejected.

Just 24 hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed a new era for bus transport in the post-Covid world, the Department for Transport announced a number of grants to local authorities around the country.

In the East of England, it awarded a total of £4.7m to new bus and minibus services in Essex, Norfolk and Hertfordshire - but nothing to Suffolk, despite the county having made an application for funding from the same pot of money.

A spokeswoman for the council said officials would try to find out from the DfT why the Suffolk bid was unsuccessful.

She said:  “We are disappointed that Suffolk County Council’s rural mobility enhancement funding submission for demand responsive transport to the DfT Rural Mobility Fund was not successful.

“We still believe that our Rural Mobility Schemes present strong business cases for funding and we will pick this up in conversations with the DfT.

"A further opportunity has presented itself with yesterday’s announcement by the Prime Minister that £3bn will be made available from the national bus strategy.”

The funding blow came the day after Ipswich Buses general manager Steve Bryce said Suffolk County Council was 20 years behind the best local authorities in the country when it came to making bus services as easy as possible for passengers.

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Essex was granted £2.5m for two new services, Hertfordshire got £1.5m and Norfolk was granted £700,000 for a new minibus service to link communities in the Breckland area.

Transport Minister, Baroness Vere, said: “Buses are the life-blood of our communities. They get us to work, to school and to see friends and family.

"Put simply, they help us make the little everyday journeys that make up our lives.

“In places where people are more dispersed, and the distance they need to travel is longer, it can be harder for traditional, timetabled bus services to truly meet their needs.

“The funding we are announcing today will give local authorities the opportunity to trial services that work better for communities – such as wheelchair-accessible minibuses that can be booked on an app on request. The schemes will help people who’ve had limited transport links for too long get to where they need to be.”