Suffolk bus routes face the axe

CONCERNS have been raised that dozens of bus routes serving communities across Suffolk could be cut next year.

A list of nearly 60 subsidised services is currently being reviewed by the county council – but their future has not been decided yet.

Parish, town and district councils are to be asked for their views on the importance of the services under review – and the county will look at passenger numbers before taking any final decisions. Any changes will not be introduced until April next year.

Director of Suffolk Acre Dr Wil Gibson called on the county to include its school transport provision in any review of subsidised services.

Most of those under review are Sunday and evening services between large towns, market towns and villages and 'market day' services linking villages with their nearest towns.

County councillor with responsibility for transport Guy McGregor emphasised that not all the services on the list were destined for closure.

He said the list was being sent to communities for their comments as part of the early stage of a review.

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'Some of these services will not need a subsidy while others may get support from the communities they serve,' he said.

Mr McGregor said there were already alternative schemes in some parts of the county – for instance in the Brandon area – that could be rolled out in other areas.

However some of the services that were least used could have their subsidies withdrawn and the council was likely to look at other ways of providing transport to those who relied on them.

Dr Gibson said the county's network of school buses should be included in any review – and said the first priority should be providing transport allowing people to get to and from work.

He said: 'We run a moped scheme which enables people to get to work if they need to start or finish at difficult times.

'But if the council were to look at the possibility of putting their own transport service which is mainly used for school runs into the mix that could make a huge difference.'

He said that could introduce more flexibility into services and enable more people to use buses to get to and from work.

Mr McGregor said the transport department would be talking to Childrens and Young Persons services about bringing school buses into the equation.

Labour's transport spokesman on Ipswich Borough Council Phil Smart said: 'These cuts are incredibly short-sighted. They will encourage people to use cars and will force others to walk home at night.

'Many evening journeys are the return leg of journeys made during the day. Those who use their cars will put more pressure on our roads and car parking spaces.'