Suffolk: the continuing loss of the RURAL BUS

November 2014:  Although there is continuing pressure on rural bus services I am delighted to pass on more excellent news about the restored  Woodbridge to Ipswich 65b Sunday bus – a service which which we managed to get back a  few months ago after much lobbying.

You may remember that Woodbridge residents were disgracefully cut off for some years from any Sunday or holiday bus transport whatsoever (including to Ipswich hospital for visiting, A&E and and minor injuries), but that, after much lobbying, this was restored in July (see details here). We were told at the time  – quite fairly in my opinion – it was a case of ‘use it, or lose it.’

Today I have heard that due to the level of patronage, the 65b service will continue at least until March, and with an enhanced service! The 65b will now run 5 times a day in each direction, and from Ipswich to Melton!  The  revised timetable with operate from Sunday 11th January 2015.

This is  power and the point  of local politics. Lobbying and local activism really can work on occasion.

It can also reverse some terrible decisions!

February 2011:  Unless we make a huge fuss NOW, unless we shout and scream and stamp our feet, unless we people of Suffolk  behave like people who KNOW what is important in this world and ACT,  our Suffolk bus services might go for good. This is not scaremongering. This is a fact!

Yes,  this current Suffolk County Council  administration might finally see off  our rural buses, destroy forever  a service that has lasted the whole of the last centuary – and put all the people of Suffolk into the motor car just as that crass idiot Beeching envisaged all these years ago!

So how has this  happened?

Don’t listen to the wormtongued rewriters of the past.  Locally, we do indeed  suffer from the fact that  most of our  present day administrators  (and thats not only not only Conservative:  Independents, Labour (tho not my esteemed colleague the trainloving bike-friendly  Cllr Martin) and even some Greens as well) would rather stick pins in their eyes or spend hour after hour in an unnecessary traffic jam, rather than get their backsides out of their cars.  It’s definitely not the best backgound to support public transport.

(Yon’t  believe me? – find out for yourself. Ask under Freedom Of Information how many car miles/ how many bus miles were claimed by the Leader, the Deputy Leader,  the Transport portfolio holder, the Chief Executive, your local County Councillor?  What happened to patterns of council private car and bus usage over the last year?

I’m sure you’ll be happy to discover that your local County Councillor  (me) comes out smelling of roses – I gave up claiming ALL expenses in this financial year as a nod to general conditions, but before those days the only no-bicycle milage I ever claimed were the occasional bus or train journey.

However I can’t make up for the deficiencies of others all by myself.)

Nationally it is much the same – our current government clearly doesn’t give a monkey’s.  But remember the loss of our buses is not JUST a legacy  of a twenty-year dead Tory government, or a seven month Coalition, very easy tho it is for some to say so. (And they do!)   Labour are equally – no,  more – to blame.  More, because they let the bus services dwindle and disappear during a time of supposed economic prosperity – prosperity built on the backs of not helping the poor out of the transport trap they had created for them.

They then got the country into £80bn of debt, left office, and immediately forgot every single detail of their responsibility for the last 13 years.

Twenty years ago, as Labour happily tell you, the Thatcher government deregulated the bus services and laid them open to public tender. Before this  time, councils ran the bus services with the popular ones funding the non-profitable ones. These days the only bus routes the county council can run are the ones that don’t make money. Can you blame them for not wanting to? Thank you Thatcher.

But Thatcher wasn’t in government last week, guys. Then, SINCE THEN, there have been thirteen years of Labour rule and , believe me, Labour did NOT support public transport, particularly in the countryside .  Oh no. The urban fascists who made up the last government  treated the countryside as the home of foxhunters and landed gentry and by ignoring the needs of the rural poor, disabled and disadvantaged (clearly persons of no importance) left them in a greater mess than they were in before Labour came to government.

Did they reregulate the bus service in those years of plenty? Did they HELL! While the overall cost of driving a car fell  by 14% in real terms under the ‘green-friendly’ Blair Brown administration,  Labour drove up bus and coach fares by a staggering 24% above inflation over the 13 years of their tenure. It was as if they really believed buses existed solely for the purpose of enriching a few private investors. Sounds familiar?  Thanks guys – you did a good job of maintaining Thatcher’s most divisive transport policies !

Lets face it – the only people you can’t blame for this whole sorry mess are the Lib Dems!   More, this particular Lib Dem seems to be one of very few people determined to prevent this happening!

Me, I love buses. When I arrived in Woodbridge twenty years ago there were five regular reliable buses an hour in and out of Ipswich making their way by different routes through town . There was a little local shuttle that did an hourly round trip so pensioners and young mothers could go shopping/visiting with minimal trouble.  People without cars could make trips to the seaside, travel to the hospital, go home in the evenings all by bus. By the time the Labour government  ended we had lost most of that: we were down to two, poorly running buses to Ipswich an hour, travelling around the outside of the town along one single route, during working hours, and during the working week. Want to visit hospital? go out in the evening? visit the seaside? Use your car (if you’ve got one. If not, stay at home!)!

Now Suffolk County Council are using the blanket term ‘ cuts’  as a reason to reduce our last, non-profit-making routes. They are planning to cut the 16-19 Explore card (which allows young people to navigate the extortionately priced bus services without it costing an arm or a leg). They are planning to cut the last services that would see our children safley back from a night out in town without using a car. They are giving up responsibility of ensuring those who work and don’t drive can continue to contribute to out economy. This is truly outrageous.

I will stand by the concept of travelling sustainably while there is any sustainable transport left to use.  And I will  fight for the continuing use of rural buses for others, because unless SOMEONE does so, they will disappear for ever.

PLEASE HELP ME STOP THIS HAPPENING!

(Incidentally, these days Suffolk ACRE is quoted frequently in the EADT on the subject of these losses.  Dr Wil Gibson (an ex-Labour councillor) says they are ‘shocking’ and will damage peoples’ abilities to get to work, school, about,  etc.   What a volte face from the days when Suffolk ACRE existed under a Labour administration. No longer ago than July 2008 they  told me I was an unsuitable candidate for a job  because I intended to travel around by bike, bus and train. “Lets face it, the days of the rural bus are over,” they told me at interview.  “You won’t be able to get about usefully unless you travel by car. Its cloud cuckoo land to think otherwise.” Never stopped me  in my subsequent career as a county councillor, but hey – everyone’s entitled an opinion. And to change their minds. Just as long as they remember to point out that this is what they have done!)

3 thoughts on “Suffolk: the continuing loss of the RURAL BUS”

  1. With you all the way and we support your campaign.

    How can we generate income for teh area by turnig it into a dormitory for those who can afford to pay ever rising fuel costs and have more than one car.

  2. Therese Coffey does not mention the loss of more local buses in her most recent newsletter, although there is a transport section.Why not?
    Local people need to know that their bus services are being withdrawn. Not everybody is a car driver. Young people need to get to college and work etc and need to get about the locality independently. There will be a cost in terms of their lack of opportunity for leisure, training and employment.
    Elderly people will suffer too or feel forced to drive until they are extremely old in order to retain their quality of life.
    The idea that a regular service can be replaced by a “Dial a Ride” service is fantasy and this type of facility only benefits the extremely well-organised and prohibits spontaneous days out.

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