�25m transport scheme divides the town

IPSWICH: A war of words is fast developing between supporters of the government’s �25million transport investment and a growing swarm of sceptics.

Some claim the rebuilding of bus stations, computerised traffic systems, and improved town centre access will help seal the future of employment and housing in Ipswich.

But others worry the grant will be misspent redesigning a helpless infrastructure by arbitrarily replacing roundabouts with traffic lights.

Today, The Evening Star asks whether the cynics are right to distrust the council’s competence for finance, or are the people of Ipswich just being needlessly pessimistic?

Transport secretary Phil Hammond this week greenlit a �25m scheme to transform traffic management and revamp public transport in Ipswich.

The ‘Ipswich – Transport Fit for the 21st Century’ project forms part of a �5.9billion upgrade to the nation’s highways and thoroughfares.

Since announcing the scheme earlier this week, The Evening Star has been inundated with dividing reaction from both sides.

Most Read

Few dispute the potential benefit �25m could have for town residents. But many question the capacity of planners to spend the cash wisely.

Work is due to begin next year and will herald a large-scale revamp, including the rebuilding of the transport infrastructure.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said: “From what I’ve seen, the public response has been pretty mixed, but that’s the nature of things like this. No one will agree with everything, especially on the subject of traffic.

“When first approached, I asked a number of questions – firstly, is this going to be good for everyone including motorists, bus users, cyclists and pedestrians? I think the answer is yes.

“Secondly, is it value for money? Given what we’re getting out of it, and how little money is going around, again I think the answer is yes.

“This is a �25m investment that otherwise would not be going into the local economy.

“There seems to be an inbuilt pessimism because Ipswich has in the past lost out.

“I want Ipswich to be doing better than Norwich, better than Cambridge and better than other towns, but Ipswich must believe in itself to allow that to happen.”

Meanwhile, David Ellesmere, the borough council opposition leader, said that while he supported the scheme, he believed it was being used to “paper over the cracks” of recent cuts.

He said: “There is a great need to improve the town’s transport infrastructure and for that reason I am delighted by the �25m scheme.

“However, I worry that there are other issues which also require attention, by axing the Bury Road Park and Ride and taking away pensioners’ and the disabled concessionary fee before 9.30am.

“The danger is that while this is all good and well, it is simply a way to paper over the cracks of the true issues.” n Tell us what you think. Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

n Ben Gummer’s column. Page 22.