New Ipswich free bus is off to late start – but no shortage of passengers
PUBLISHED: 13:08 31 July 2017 | UPDATED: 13:41 31 July 2017
The new Ipswich council-sponsored free shuttle bus linking Russell Road with the town centre started 15 minutes late on Monday – but there was no shortage of passengers once the lunch-hour started.
The service had been supported by Suffolk County Council since 2004, but councillors at Endeavour House decided to stop funding the service and switch the money it cost to encouraging their staff to use the town’s park and ride service.
Last week Ipswich council, which also put some money into the free shuttle bus, announced it would take over funding a reduced service – it now runs between 11.30am and 2.30pm to allow staff to reach the town centre during their lunch breaks.
The first bus was 15 minutes late because of technical problems with the vehicle – but by the time it came round for its second journey at noon there was a good crowd of passengers from council offices waiting to travel into the town centre.
Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere was on hand to see the first bus away.
He said: “This is aimed at improving the economics of the town centre. Shops in the heart of Ipswich need the staff from the council offices and other businesses in this part of the town to go and spend money there in the middle of the day.
“It is a long way to walk if you have a large bag or two and the bus was not there, council staff would simply not go into the town centre and would wait until the weekend and go to out of town retail parks instead.”
The borough is running the service until the end of March and is hoping to encourage other bodies, including Ipswich Central and the county council to contribute as well.
The cost of running the service an extra hour a day would be another £8,000 a year. By running a slightly shorter route, Ipswich Buses is able to provide the service with a single vehicle and by running the bus along Upper Brook Street rather than Tacket Street and Bond Street it is expected to be more useful for many users – there is a stop very near the entrance to the town centre Sainsbury’s and Wilko’s stores.
It runs four times an hour over the lunchtime period and is available to anyone – not just employees of the borough or county council or other public servants.