(Even) More Cuts For Bus Users

March 2020  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 involve a mile walk home at the Woodbridge end.
  • Or use othe 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?

Sept 2019 Sudden shocking level of cuts to bus services in Woodbridge and beyond demonstrate how completely the privatised model of bus service has failed us country dwellers. Private companies think of shareholder, not of passenger need, and by law the county council can only subsidise services that do not make a profit.

County’s recent decisions to stop funding all roadside bus timetables and refusal to accept bus passes on “on-demand” replacements has added to the confusion and shock of the vulnerable, elderly and disabled people who are most affected.

Young people travelling to college on the Sudbourne – Ipswich 71 (cut from November 2019) have no alternative.

The fast and efficient 800 park and ride extension to Rendlesham vanished last week with three weeks notice. First had never advertised this service on-bus although Woodbridge is crying out for means to take visitor parking offstreet (and I had told First so).

At the same time, cuts and amendations to the 64 bus route have left teachers unable to reach school, disabled people in Peterhouse without access to services, workers in Ipswich with no bus home after 6pm, and no chance of evening hospital visiting by bus at all. It is truly terrible.

We are told by First that passenger numbers do not add up. I am personally reliant on buses, and this has not been my experience. I have also been told that First didn’t count bus pass holders. They are paid for them.

There is little point in councils announcing climate emergency if it is not translated into sustainable travel.

I am calling on  the people of iWoodbridge, Martlesham, Melton and other affected parishes to join me in protesting these damaging decisions by signing this petition .

I am calling on  the parish representatives Woodbridge, Martlesham, Melton to join me in protesting these damaging decisions to First, the council and our MP.

And I also call on everyone to reject our national broken model of bus transport

Feb 2019: We are all losing out on access to bus services due to SCC’s recent budget decision to stop funding roadside timetables.

Really helpful for residents and tourists alike and will really manage to make this county greener and resuce car usage.

However concessionary bus pass holders are losing rural travel entitlement due to cheeseparing decisionmaking by our penny-foolish pound-foolish county council.

Harsh words? I will tell more. In recent years SCC has made a point of not supporting rural scheduled buses and demand responsive transport (DRT) is provided instead. Initially bus pass holders had the same rights on DRT bus transport as they would have on the scheduled service. In 2016 this changed (You can read details here):http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2016/06/16/will-your-pass-be-accepted-on-sccs-new-community-transport

I was delighted at the time to discover that Suffolk Coastal bus pass holders together with most other districts would not lose entitlement, though very concerned that Mid-Suffolk bus pass holders would. I was also concerned that this loss of entitlement might spread. I was right!

Hidden in this year’s budget  (Appendix E p5 Table 1.3: Tactical Savings – Cost Reductions) is the following: COST-GHI-4 Passenger Transport: Removal of Concessionary Fares from Connecting Communities “to ensure consistency of pricing through Suffolk.”

These are weasel words. “Consistency of pricing” could more fairly be achieved by restoring concessionary fares to Mid Suffolk than taking them away from everywhere else. This decision is expected to save £300,000. About a third of what  the fiscally prudent Tories wasted on the abortive Northern Route consultation. Priorities, eh?

Put this together with the budget cut on p7 of the same Appendix (Table 1.6: Tactical Savings – Service Reductions)SER-GHI-12 Passenger Transport: Net savings achieved through a reduction in funding for sponsored bus services combined with an investment in the Connecting Communities demand-responsive community transport serviceyou can see the administration are creating a perfect storm for those least able to manage: the elderly and disabled with few other choices All to save another £340,000. All sums added together are less than a TENTH of the sum County’s Tory administration tossed casually to ‘consultants’ for the failed Orwell Crossing).

So why does this matter?  Apart from many personal tragedies, the issue is one of equality. If you are unable to use your bus pass and are entitled to one, you can swap your entitlement for (I think) £100.00 of travel vouchers annually. This is useful if you are eg so disabled you cannot access buses, and therefore cannot make use of them.

However in the situation where a bus pass holder is not offered any local buses, they may be very enthusiastic users. This decision means such people have to choose between the vouchers for very local transport- and a bus pass that can be used on every scheduled bus service going throughout the UK, but not locally. If you have a bus pass in Woodbridge you cannot use it to travel to many parts of Suffolk.

These two linked budget decisions therefore represent a huge loss specifically to elderly and disabled rural people with few transport choices  – either financially, or in terms of transport freedom.

Add these to County’s decision to stop providing printed roadside timetables from 12 June 2019, to save £100,000 and you have all the ingredients to see off rural bus usage.

Only an administration which has no understanding  of or reliance on a bus service or bus pass would have considered or enacted it. 

Caroline Page, LibDem County Councillor for Woodbridge