Another blow for bus passengers in Lowestoft
BUS travellers were delivered a further blow this week with news that another service is to be completely withdrawn.
The number 99 service, between Lowestoft and Kessingland, and the 99A service, between Lowestoft and Southwold, will stop running from tomorrow after their operator First decided that they were 'commercially unviable'.
The bleak news, which has shocked passengers, comes just a week after Suffolk County Council revealed it may have to withdraw funding from a whole host of rural services in a bid to to slash its public transport budget from �4.2m to �1.9m in the next year.
But the latest blow for travellers could be tempered by some good news, because another operator says it has plans to increase its services linking Lowestoft with Kessingland and Southwold by adding extra buses from this spring.
Confirming its decision to axe the 'under-used' 99 and 99A daytime services, First said a drop in passsengers had forced its hand.
A First spokesman said: 'The decision to cut back on these bus services was not taken very lightly. We have conducted various investigations and have found that the services have experienced a reduction in passenger usage in the past year.
'For this reason we have had to terminate the services as they are not commercially viable to operate.'
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A notice has been posted on the First Group Eastern Counties website, but for passengers the news has come as a shock.
Stanley and Jeanne Twyman, of Wash Lane, Kessingland, only found out they would be facing longer waits at the bus stop when a driver told them.
'We had quite a shock,' said 68-year-old Mr Twyman, who worked as a bus driver for 28 years before retiring. 'It's bad enough to lose the service but no one is being told anything. Another worry is drivers being let go.'
First buses ran between three and four times an hour, into the evening and at weekends.
But as the Journal reported last week, the 99 evening service had already been facing the axe as it is among the routes which receive subsidies from the county council, and it is unlikely that they will be able to survive without this financial backing.
The number 601 (Southwold to Lowestoft and Yarmouth) and number 608 (Kessingland to Lowestoft and Yarmouth) services run by Anglian Bus will continue as normal and the company's director Andrew Pursey confirmed this week that he had plans to increase the level of service by adding extra buses around April.
He said there had been a surge in passenger numbers and, while timetabling was still being ironed out with Suffolk County Council, he hoped to have a total of 10 buses on the route come spring.
For more information on bus services, call Traveline East Anglia on 0871 2002233 or visit www.travelineeastanglia.co.uk.