£107million bid to improve bus services across Suffolk

Near empty bus in Ipswich

The council plans to work more closely with operators to encourage more bus travel - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Council leaders have upped a multi-million pound bid to improve bus services by nearly 50% - as part of plans to work more closely with service providers.

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet had agreed to submit a bid of £50m for the Government’s Bus Back Better scheme to attract more passengers.

But the council has now confirmed its final bid was actually £27m more than that at £77m for the next three years, and £107m over five years.

A spokesman for the authority said: “The Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) taken to cabinet was a draft document with a bid for a minimum of £50m, and the cabinet was asked for, and approved, delegated powers to [cabinet member] councillor Richard Smith to develop and finalise the bid.

“Between the time of the cabinet meeting and the submission of the final BSIP document at the end of October we were able to provide further detail and provide a more complete cost estimate, thanks to our continued engagement with the bus operators.

“However we are still waiting to hear how much funding we will actually receive. Once that amount is known we can then begin to identify where it can best be spent.”

A report to this month’s full council meeting said future schemes would be dependent on what level of funding the Government gave, with a response expected ‘in the next few months’.

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Bus Back Better represents a radical shake-up of bus service provision with ambitions for more joined up services, multi-operator ticket options, wider coverage, cheaper fares and improved infrastructure.

It will be based on a delivery model known as an ‘enhanced partnership’ which will effectively mean the transport authority and the operators work closer together on developing services.

Among measures in Suffolk’s BSIP are:

  • Lower fares for those aged below 25
  • A review of service frequency, particularly on key corridors
  • Daily fare caps and touch-on/touch-off ticketing
  • Bus decarbonisation ambitions
  • Integrating school bus routes with regular public networks
  • Increased bus priority measures such as bus lanes

The plans also propose exploring other options such as merging Ipswich’s two bus stations and establishing a ‘Pocket Park & Ride’ site in the Nacton Road area of Ipswich.

More details are expected to be unveiled once the Government settlement has been confirmed in the new year.