Borough set to sell Ipswich Buses

It will be all change on Ipswich Buses with the borough-owned company set to be sold in the New Year.

IPSWICH: It will be all change on Ipswich Buses with the borough-owned company set to be sold in the New Year.

The Evening Star can today reveal that talks have been going on between the borough and transport giant Go Ahead, with the firm expected to take over the operation of most of the bus services in the town.

Go Ahead has services across the country - mainly in towns and cities - and earlier this month took over the bus services run by Plymouth City Council.

The number of council-owned bus companies has fallen steadily since bus company deregulation in 1986 - Ipswich Buses is one of just 11 council-owned companies in Britain.

The news will come as a blow to First Group who operate rural buses throughout Norfolk and Suffolk.

But bosses at the company always knew they would not be able to take over Ipswich Buses because such a move would have prompted a Monopolies' Commission investigation which would almost certainly have blocked the deal.

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No one from Ipswich Buses was able to comment on the progress of the talks.

The figures involved in the buy-out have not been revealed.

But the Star understands that the deal is near completion and a formal announcement is expected early in the New Year.

As well as operating bus services in London, Brighton, Oxford, and the North East, Go Ahead is also one of the largest rail operators in England.

It runs the Southern, London Midland and South East franchises and has built a reputation for allowing its managers to run services tailored to their needs with little interference from headquarters.

Since deregulation there have been several approaches by transport giants to buy Ipswich Buses from the council. These were always rebuffed by the former Labour administration.

The Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration now in power at Grafton House was never as firm in its opposition but until now no deals were considered tempting enough.

The sale does not include the bus company's headquarters in Constantine Road which is owned by the council, and the Star understands the borough may retain a stake in the bus company - although control would be in the hands of the Go Ahead group.

1880: First tramway opened in Ipswich.

1903: Ipswich Corporation took over tramway, converted it to electricity and opened new routes.

1926: Tram system closed, all vehicles replaced by “trackless trams” - trolleybuses.

1950: First motorbuses run - to Maidenhall and Whitehouse, soon these services extended to the new Chantry estate.

1963: Last trolleybus service ran.

1986: Bus deregulation came in, buses no longer run directly by the council but by a council-owned company. Later that year all buses became one-person operation, conductors became a thing of the past.

2003: Ipswich Buses celebrates the centenary of council-owned transport in Ipswich.

2010: Bus company sold to Go Ahead?