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Anger over bus services changes

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:42 06 July 2010

MP Bob Blizzard with Ken Shreeve (left) and Robert Shreeve (directors of Belle Coaches) in 2009.

MP Bob Blizzard with Ken Shreeve (left) and Robert Shreeve (directors of Belle Coaches) in 2009.

Hayley Mace

Hundreds of bus passengers have signed petitions to voice their outrage after a north Suffolk operator lost its contract for a popular shopping route.

Hundreds of bus passengers have signed petitions to voice their outrage after a north Suffolk operator lost its contract for a popular shopping route.

More than 400 people have signed petitions after discovering that Belle Coaches, based in Lowestoft and Leiston, will no longer operate the service which covers many Suffolk villages, Lowestoft and Norwich.

The company has operated the service, known as the 626, for the past five years, but Suffolk County Council has now awarded the contract to Simonds of Botesdale, near Diss.

The current route varies every day to cover villages all over north Suffolk. Belle Coaches will continue running the route until March 26.

Ken Shreeve, managing director at Belle, said: "The council originally pleaded with us to put on this service five years ago and now they are chan-ging to go with a cheaper option."

A Suffolk County Council spokes-man said: "We carried out a thorough and open competitive tender at the end of this five-year contract, as we are obliged to do. We have awarded the contract to the operator that evidenced the best value for the funds available."

Carl Lummis, operations manager for Simonds, said the capacity for passengers could rise as they planned to use a 65-seater coach. "The route will not be changing and although there will be a slight change in timings, we will still run the same unrivalled service that we run throughout the country," he said.

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