Category Archives: Buses

The bus service in Woodbridge

Covid – when should we wear masks?

Two older people wearing medical facemasks and giving a victory signFinally, at long last, masks will be MANDATORY on UK public transport from 15 June. Far too late of course – as is to be expected from this craven, risk-averse, milquetoast, chumocratic apology for a government – but hoo-blinking-ray anyway.

Masks help reduce covid transmission and so protect not only passengers but drivers.

33 bus drivers have died in London to date.

Why has this diktat taken so long?  Well, you see, “masks undermine social distancing. Everyone knows that!” But everyone also knows that when the wind changes, your face stays that way. And eating crusts makes your hair curl.

Things everyone knows are not always true.

This week I challenged Suffolk’s Director of Public Health, Stuart Keeble, to supply the scientific evidence for the whole “masks undermine social distancing” story – which has been peddled in the UK at all levels. I called it an “urban myth”. He denied this. But has yet to come back to me with any scientific evidence whatsoever.

On the other side, Dr Greenhalgh – an Oxford Professor of Primary Care and passionate advocate of  mask-wearing to reduce community transmission – has recently published this peer reviewed paper analysing the evidence behind counter arguments and shows it to be (at best) weak:  Face coverings for the public: Laying straw men to rest //onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jep.13415

When I blogged in March (yes, you heard it, MARCH) on how to make your own masks– stating clearly they helped reduce transmission rather than infection and were particularly useful in taking pressure off scanty PPE supplies (and that the pattern was approved by local medics) – o lord, what a fuss there was from local keyboard experts! (A lot of the arguments that were made about this – now far from- controversial idea, are addressed and put to bed in Dr Greenhalgh’s paper.)

Yet it turns out from Suffolk’s latest figures on covid infection in care homes, that the virus must have come in via people from outside: visitors, deliveries, staff.  Care homes were briefed fully on infection control. Transmission was their Achilles heel. Why were they, why were we not alerted to the benefits of wearing masks? The course of the pandemic might have run differently.

Graph showing correlation between mask wearing and infection rates in 4 countries: highest infection per day no masks- UK. Lowest infection and a tradition of masks, Taiwan


Here is an interesting table showing the path of infection in 4 countries – and when each made mask-wearing compulsory. Imagine if everybody in the UK had started wearing facemasks on the day I had blogged – instead of passing on remarks about incorrect usage (really, how hard is it to cover your nose and mouth?),  how they reduced social distancing and so on.

Imagine, if instead of criticising Asia, we in the UK had taken a steer from them, and implemented face covering for all as well as hand washing and social distancing. I would then have not have been receiving emergency masks from anxious friends in China to give to all of us poor Suffolk people they saw as vulnerable and unprotected.Facemasks


 

B uses abandon Woodbridge: Woodbridge abandons buses

The 65b Woodridge service seemed to be getting plenty of custom on Good Friday

I gather that the ‘temporary’ Old Barrack Road, Woodbridge stops (which have now been ‘temporary’ in the current situation for the best part of six months) are now intended to become permanent ones some day. Moving them nearer to Newnham Avenue will be counter-productive as they will then be close to the Duke of York stops and further than ever away from the removed Peterhouse stops. Moving them to the top of Warren Hill Road might be an option but they will be close to the existing Warren Hill stops and again be further than ever away from the removed Peterhouse stops.

They are clearly causing problems where they are.

The reason that these ‘temporary stops’ were put where they are is that some attempt was being made to mitigate the drastic local reduction of service caused by removing the Peterhouse ‘loop’ from First bus services six months back. This was compounded by removing the Martlesham section of the route on all 64 buses and reducing the number of 63 services.

I have to add that in this time, the combined efforts of Suffolk County Council and First Buses in cutting services have between them appeared to effect a modal shift AWAY from bus transport in Woodbridge, judging by how much emptier the few remaining buses are. This is the very opposite of what we are trying to achieve and is, perhaps, because the very limited morning/evening buses are now of minimum use for any worker or student:

For example, if I, an elderly disabled non-driver ,want to reach Ipswich and be at my desk reliably by 9am I have the following options. I can

  • take 7.15 or 7.45 bus from the Duke of York and walk/trans-bus from the Cattlemarket
  • Walk a mile and catch 7.35 train, rather than use the bus at all
  • Cycle 9 miles.

Returning at the other end of the day my options are no more attractive

  • I would need to leave work very very sharply at 17.30 in order to catch the last bus to Woodbridge from the Cattlemarket at 17.49.
  • The alternative is taking the very last bus (a 70) at 18.00 that will take an hour to go the country route and will then involve a mile walk home at the Woodbridge end.
  • Or use the hourly trains at 18mins past the hour and walking a mile at the end, rather than use the bus at all. This is easier if one works at Endeavour House than eg Phoenix House.
  • Cycle 9 miles. Often in the dark and rain.

This comprises the first/last bus services into Suffolk’s county town from the 12th largest town in Suffolk.

It also means that as County Councillor with a responsibility for a small is section of north Martlesham, I am obliged to cycle in the dark to Martlesham Town Council meetings, whatever the weather, as there now no available bus service to get me from Woodbridge for 19.15. Indeed there are now very few bus services that do so within the day.  Just to reiterate, I am over 60, and I have a disability that prevents me from driving. It is also increasingly hard for me to walk or cycle, but I – like many of those I represent – have no other options. How many of the officers, elected members  and business people with oversight of these services actually rely on them.  I only know of two other County Councillors who are reliant on public transport.

This is a tragic state of affairs, considering that the councils at all levels have declared a climate emergency. I am hoping it is not intentional. However it seems that the bus service reductions are  undermining our ability to use – let alone make the modal shift to – bus transport, just at the moment when we need to be encouraging it. Will our children and grandchildren forgive us?

Woodbridge: what’s happening. My November 2019 report


Decriminalisation of Parking (CPE) is finally to go ahead across Suffolk The long delayed decriminalisation of parking (CPE) held up for the last year by the huge amount of additional parliamentary time spent on Brexit will go ahead as soon after 31st Jan 2020 as training of staff can happen!

This is good news for many beleaguered communities across Suffolk.

Simultaneously the Thoroughfare TRO, also held up by the same issue (though for a different reason: the requirement to make a whole-Suffolk TRO map) is now ongoing,  the funding has been put aside for a year now  from my locality budget.

Please pass this good news on!

County makes huge cut to Health visitors without democratic mandate You may remember that earlier this year, there were reports that Suffolk County Council planned to cut 25% of Health Visitors. We have now learned that the council has in fact reduced Health Visitors by 35%, without informing either the public or councillors. The staffing cuts were made as part of an internal restructure of the 0-19 Healthy Child Service in order to save £1m.
In England, it is mandatory for families to receive five visits to check on the health of children/parents during pregnancy early childhood, and the guidance states that these checks should be undertaken by health visitors. However, as a result of these staffing reductions, in Suffolk only three of these visits will be undertaken by specially trained health visitors, with staff nurses expected to take on the other two checks.
My group proposed a motion at Council on the 17 October, asking the administration to reconsider these cuts, which unfortunately was voted down.

Woodbridge and Martlesham representatives with senior First bus officers

Confronting the Bus Cuts After the meeting of 13 parishes with First Buses at the end of October,
In which we pointed out we reoresented 46,000 people and asked for specific assistance in restoring the status quo,  we have heard unexpectedly of the proposed saving of a portion of the erstwhile 71 route (Sudbourne to Woodbridge), because it has been taken over by First, with proposed through-ticketing to Ipswich. This a first feather in the cap of joint working between the parishes.

Concerns about Adult Safeguarding funding The annual report of Suffolk’s Adult Safeguarding board confirmed that it had had to spend £40,000 of its £87,000 reserves on ‘transformation’ in 19-20. If if does the same next year it would be left with reserves of £7,000. I have asked whether there future plans involve cuts to services or persuading further funding contributions from colleague organisations. The answer was that were looking at both options.

Sizewell Detailed Emergency Planning Zone. These days, a statutory duty of county is contingency planning in case of nuclear accident.

Suffolk’s updated plan for Sizewell was dIscussed at Cabinet in early November. Provision has to be made to deliver iodine tablets and evacuate residents within a 30km radius of Sizewell within 24 hours of a radiation leak. Just to remind residents – Woodbridge is within a 30km radius of Sizewell. I made it my business to point this out loud and clear at the meeting. We appear to be in a footnote:  we are the second biggest down in the fallout area. We need to be at the front of everybody’s minds.

Additionally I asked what provision has been made for climate change – specifically the wholly predictable rising of sea levels –  in the emergency plan.  None, apparently.

Review of new School Transport policy  After months of public condemnation, Cllr Mary Evans, new Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills, has apologised to families affected by the new school transport policy and has confirmed that there will be a review of the policy. However, it is likely that this review will only focus on the implementation of the new policy, rather than the inherent problems with the policy itself.

Since the introduction of the new policy, there has been a large increase in the number of transport appeals: 141 appeals were submitted from 1 July – 18 October, compared to an average of just 21 for the same time period in previous years.

Furthermore, over 70% of these appeals have been decided in favour of parents who had initially been refused transport by the council. The situation has been compounded by the decision to count Rights of Way as appropriate means of walking to schools. Some are more appropriate than others, and it has led to significant councillor walking of routes to establish safety and viability.

As vice chair of the Appeals panel, I can confirm that the panel now sits for two full days a month and panel members can walk as many as ten early morning safety routes a month.

Boundary Consultation extended, Childrens Centres consultation delayed. Because of the General Election, the consultation on new division boundaries for Suffolk County Council has been extended to early  January 2020. As part of this review, the Boundary Commission are proposing to reduce councillor numbers in Suffolk from 75 to 70. I have already offered you my view on this.

You can find out more information and respond to the consultation here: https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/1849

For similar reasons the county has now announced that their contentious Childrens Centres consultation is delayed until after the election